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Top Chef: Is history on Jamie Lynch’s side?

Jamie Lynch is still shaking the pots on “Last Chance Kitchen.”
Jamie Lynch is still shaking the pots on “Last Chance Kitchen.” Paul Cheney/Bravo

Spoiler alert: Let’s talk “Top Chef” history here.

Yes, Charlotte’s Jamie Lynch of 5Church made history last week on “Top Chef: Charleston” by volunteering to give up immunity, getting bounced to the web-only “Last Chance Kitchen” and then besting fan favorite Jim Smith.

And this week, if you haven’t watched at your desk already this morning, he took on the mouthy Katsuji Tenabe (kind of glad to see that guy get eliminated), picked the five ingredients they both had to use – sweet potatoes, shishito peppers, lime, onions and sorghum – ignored Katsuji’s usual trash talk that Lynch’s stacked sweet potato napoleon was “very ‘80s” and prevailed. Way to keep your head down and cook, Jamie.

“I’m stoked to slay the Katsuji dragon,” Lynch admitted.

Now, what are Lynch’s chances of actually making it back to the final of the show? It has been done a couple of times. In Season 13, Amar Santana survived “Last Chance” and came back to face Jeremy Ford, although he lost in the end. Santana also didn’t hit “Last Chance” until close to the end of the season, so he only had to make it through a couple of other chefs before he went back for the finale.

More important in handicapping is Season 10, when Kristen Kish got eliminated at about the same time in the season as Lynch. She came back from “Last Chance” and ended up winning the finale. So it has been done.

Lynch has a tough challenge: He came in so early that he had to face at least six chefs to make it back on the show. In the final episodes, they also sometimes end up with more than one elimination in a show, so that number could go up. And there are some very strong chefs still left who could either be his “Last Chance” competitors, like John Tesar, Sylva Senat and Brooke Williamson.

So while he’s taken down two in a row, so he has four to go.

What do you think? Could he go all the way?

There are a few things in his favor: “Last Chance Kitchen” is a more relaxed atmosphere and you can quickly see what your competitor is doing and correct your course a little. Since it involves a single dish, it’s also “put down your head and cook,” and that plays to Lynch’s strengths in not getting distracted by all the gimmicks and games involved in the main episodes.

Finally, because host Tom Colicchio is the only judge, Lynch might have a little support going there. Colicchio likes integrity and Lynch showed that when he threw away his immunity to be judged with his team when he got eliminated. Could that tilt Colicchio’s support toward him as he judges the dishes?

One more note: No matter how much they keep making it sound like Lynch is a Charleston chef, we know the truth, right? He’s been cooking in Charlotte for years, while 5Church in Charleston and Atlanta have been open for only months. Despite “the CH factor” that keeps the rest of the world confusing Charlotte with Charleston, we know the difference, don’t we?

Kathleen Purvis: 704-358-5236, @kathleenpurvis

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