Inside, the place was packed with two corporate Christmas parties and then that other little event, the first episode of the new season of “Top Chef.” Based in Charleston this time, it was also the debut of 5Church executive chef Jamie Lynch. The noise level was at top levels by the time the big flatscreen TV lit up with the show.
Working the room before the show started, Lynch admitted he was just a bit nervous. “I’m about to throw up. Once I get a whiskey drink in me, I’ll be fine.”
So, a few highs, lows and aws from the night:
▪ Aw, when Lynch’s in-laws Bill and Susan (they didn’t want to give their last names) showed up from their home in Mooresville, both wearing “Team Jamie” T-shirts. Lynch grabbed a Sharpie to sign Susan’s, with his name on one shoulder and a heart-and-arrow tattoo on the other.
▪ Highlight: When the first quickfire competition started (make whatever you can from a chicken in 1 hour) and even co-host Tom Colicchio noted Lynch’s serious chicken-chopping skills.
▪ Lowlight: When Lynch, no slouch on line-cook skills, managed to burn the vegetables he was caramelizing in butter.
▪ Highlight: When Lynch didn’t get bounced for blowing something as basic as burning vegetables.
▪ Lowlight: When Lynch’s face on the big screen showed a sheen of sweat on his upper lip. You think those quickfire challenges are easy? But still, never let them see you sweat.
▪ Highlight: When the “cheftestants” (their name, not ours) were being driven to their luxe Charleston apartment and both Lynch and ex-Charlottean Sam Talbot ended up in the same SUV. Lynch to Talbot: “My @#$%-hole puckered when you walked in.”
So, I had to ask Lynch: How did you manage to burn those vegetables?
“I know! And I was a veg guy (as a line cook in New York).” It was the set, he admitted. “Look at how far the range is from your prep station.” He was too far away from the stove to smell and hear them burning.
OK, chef. In this case, Colichio and fellow co-host Padma Lakshmi let him off easy on it. Let’s see if they take it easy next week. The show airs on Thursday nights at 10 p.m.