I'll Bite

Spoiler alerts: Getting back to kitchen speed on ‘Top Chef’

In the pits at Sweatman’s Barbecue in South Carolina, some of the ‘Top Chef’ competitors get an introduction into real, whole-hog barbecue.
In the pits at Sweatman’s Barbecue in South Carolina, some of the ‘Top Chef’ competitors get an introduction into real, whole-hog barbecue. Paul Cheney/Bravo

What do you mean, you didn’t spend your holiday week last week biting your nails through another episode of “Top Chef: Charleston”? (Me either: I took a vacation, too.)

Before tonight’s new episode at 10 p.m., let’s catch up. For barbecue fans and Charlotte followers of 5Church’s Jamie Lynch, it was a strong episode. Unfortunately, it was not so good for someone on our Charlotte watch list. Let’s play the highlights reel:

Biscuits: The Quickfire challenge started in a dark kitchen, with no instructions, while the chefs tried to guess what was going on. In an staging to rival an M.C. Escher sketch, we get Padma Lakshmi in the camera room, watching the chefs watching for her (and, um, talking about her, which was probably disturbing). They quickly figure out they’ve got a challenge to make biscuits.

We learn: Lynch, despite years of cooking in Charlotte, has “never made biscuits in my life.”

“I will be completely mortified if I put up the worst biscuits.” Yes, chef, and we would be mortified for you.

Result: Lynch didn’t mortify himself. His egg-topped breakfast biscuit with truffle honey, mushroom and asparagus ragout earned a “great call” from guest judge John Currence of Mississippi’s Big Bad Breakfast restaurant and a spot in the top three, although not the final win.

Barbecue: This is where it gets good. The chefs get taken to Sweatman’s BBQ in Eutawville, S.C., and Scott’s Bar-B-Que, home base of guest judge Rodney Scott in Hemingway, S.C.

TV miracle: As dedicated barbecue trippers know, Charleston to Holly Hill to Hemingway to Charleston is actually 4 hours and 25 minutes of driving, plus the time they spent in the smokehouses watching real barbecue being made. Consider it a fantasy trip.

TV miracle II: When the chefs get back to Charleston and split into three teams to cook a pig overnight, they actually have to do real barbecue, burn barrel for turning wood into coals and all. I once gnashed my teeth through an episode in one of the early seasons that claimed to feature barbecue and set the chefs up with gas grills. Thank you for showing respect, Bravo.

Result: Lynch’s team (with fan favorite Jim Smith and Shirley Chung) did a creditable job, with pig head and trotter hash (thanks for knowing the relatively obscure barbecue hash, Lynch), braised cabbage and apples and quick pickles. A hit with both the judges and 150 guest diners, they ended up in the middle, but at least none were eliminated.

Tragic: Meanwhile, online in “Last Chance Kitchen,” the real heartbreaker was Charlotte-raised Sam Talbot, facing this week’s loser, Sylvia Barban, in a challenge to use seven “lucky” foods in a 10-minute dish. Talbot was good. But Barban, according to head judge Tom Colicchio, was just a little better. Talbot’s luck ran out. Pity, because Talbot has been a joy to watch this season.

Kathleen Purvis: 704-358-5236, @kathleenpurvis