I'll Bite

Is Charlotte chef on ‘Top Chef’?

Zoom and sharpen this photo, tweeted by Laura Pavlides in May from a Mount Pleasant grocery, and you see a film crew and ... Lynch?
Zoom and sharpen this photo, tweeted by Laura Pavlides in May from a Mount Pleasant grocery, and you see a film crew and ... Lynch? @LauraPavlides on Twitter

After persistent rumors and a possible sighting during this spring’s taping of “Top Chef” in Charleston, it’s looking very likely that 5Church executive chef Jamie Lynch is one of the players on the upcoming season of the chef competition show.

On Monday night, two owners of 5Church invited two writers, myself and Kristen Wile of Charlotte Magazine, to try a couple of new dishes and talk about changes they’re planning at the uptown hot spot. The conversation went like this:

After an ambitious expansion to Atlanta and Charleston in the last few months, the Charlotte restaurant known for having “The Art of War” painted on its ceiling and a place-to-be-seen bar scene is turning some attention back to its original location at 5th and Church streets. The leadership team, including co-owners Patrick Whalen and Alejandro Torio and executive chef Jamie Lynch, wanted to talk about the future, including a facelift and a new menu this fall.

With a new boutique hotel, The Ivy, going into the building above them, Whalen said, they’re getting ready to make some changes.

Not stated? Where Lynch was for four months recently, when the menu changes were first discussed.

Whalen said the changes came after James Beard Award-winner R.J. Cooper took the chef job at 5Church’s new Atlanta space: Cooper wanted to add more of his own dishes to the roster Lynch had created in Charlotte. (5Church opened a Charleston location in March, and the Atlanta site in July – a very fast ramp-up for a business that became a celebrity favorite at 2012’s Democratic National Convention here. Meanwhile, Cooper had been hired by the being-renovated uptown Marriott, but that fell through.)

Whalen said when it came up, Lynch was on a four-month “culinary tour of Asia” and couldn’t be reached.

But Lynch refused to answer questions about such a trip, and wouldn’t list the countries he visited or answer questions about how the trip influenced his new dishes.

The reason? Maybe he wasn’t in Asia at all: Maybe “Asia” was a cover story for Charleston – where the Bravo show “Top Chef” has been taping its new season.

While the “Top Chef” production company Magical Elves is traditionally close-mouthed about its chef lineup, there have been persistent rumors Lynch is competing in the new season. A picture posted on Twitter in May appears to show camera crews filming at the Whole Foods in Mount Pleasant. One of the people being filmed bears a strong resemblance to Lynch, including his shaved haircut (and distinctive hairline), wrap-around glasses and neck and arm tattoos.

A restaurant source in Charlotte who knows Lynch says the report is likely: Whalen and Torio have expressed interest in getting their chefs involved with TV in the past.

Meanwhile, in Charleston, restaurant news reports have noted that Lynch has presented himself as a Charleston chef, because of the 5Church location there, and a source there said that show host Padma Lakshmi had described Lynch as “a credit to the city.”

So, if it is true and Lynch is one of the players this season, how did he do? No premiere date has been announced for the new season of the Emmy-nominated show. All I can say is that on Monday night, presenting a few new dishes (including two that feature Carolina Gold rice, grown near Charleston), Lynch seemed happy and relaxed. He appeared to be a man who’s looking forward to the next few months.

Kathleen Purvis: 704-358-5236, @kathleenpurvis

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