I'll Bite

Spoilers ahead: ‘Top Chef’ tears . . . and tears

For those following along with 5Church Charlotte’s Jamie Lynch on “Top Chef: Charleston”: Oh, the agony. A few highlights (and low lights) from Thursday night’s episode.

Quickfire triumph: The challenge was to make healthful versions of comfort food, with wrinkles deeper than linen in Charleston humidity. First, it had to be meatless. Then, they had to run to get each ingredient one at a time.

Lynch highs: His son Max has been a vegetarian since he was 3, so he had this one, with crumbled-tofu Sloppy Joe’s.

Lynch lows: Um, yes, he’s a smoker. So that running wasn’t such a good thing. “It’s time to quit smoking,” he admitted. It’s always time, chef.

Result: Lynch scores his first Quickfire win, with the biggest smile he’s shown the entire season. That brought him immunity. Good thing, as it turns out.

Good for Bravo: The main challenge was a focus on the late Edna Lewis, and it was sad on several levels. First, it was sad that so many young chefs have no idea who Edna Lewis was (she was born in a community of former slaves and went on to become one of the most influential chefs in the South with wisdom on eating seasonally and locally). Still, watching them figure it out, with help from author Toni Tipton-Martin and chef Arthur Smalls, was heart-warming.

It also helped to deal with criticism earlier in the season that the show was callous about slave history in an earlier episode at Middleton Place. This time, there were strong moments on black heritage, particularly in a return to Middleton, where Lewis lived and worked in one phase of her life.

Loveliest moment: Watching chef Sylva Senat, born in Haiti. Not only did he truly understand Lewis’ story, he shared his own struggles to become a chef, where he is often the only black person in some kitchens. When Senat won a culinary scholarship, his father forbade him from taking it because he didn’t think it was a worthy career for a black man. Senat ended up paying his own way to culinary school to follow his dream.

For Southern watchers, the judges’ table was a Who’s Who of notable names, including cookbook authors Nathalie Dupree and Tipton-Martin and chef Art Smith.

Jim Smith fans: Isn’t Trekker Jim turning out to be better than anyone expected? He showed serious chops in this episode (and he knew who Edna Lewis was without being told).

Lynch lows: If it wasn’t for the immunity he won, he’d probably be done. He miscounted plates and Padma didn’t get food, and you know how that goes over with Padma. Then the sous vide steak he cooked got low marks. So Lynch hasn’t packed his knives yet, although the preview of next week’s episode looked ominous. Stay tuned . . .

Kathleen Purvis: 704-358-5236, @kathleenpurvis

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