This was posted Friday, January 13, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Jamie Lynch, the Charlotte chef with a Midtown restaurant 5Church, became the first person ever on 14 seasons of "Top Chef" to voluntarily give up immunity. His noble act got him booted immediately.
Why? He had immunity by winning the quickfire challenge - his second. During the main competition, he purposely took the worst ingredients because of his immunity: chicken breast and peanut butter. His chicken satay didn't sit well with the judges so they picked his team of three for the bottom, guaranteeing one of the other two was going to go home.
"The judges were pretty clear they hated my dish," Lynch said in an interview today, "even though the guests at the party loved it." He acknowledged it wasn't his best effort, noting technical difficulties with the grill but still thought it was a solid dish.
Once he came before the judges, he said he wanted to be judged with his team and relinquished his immunity.
"He fell on his sword," judge Tom Colicchio said.
Emily Hahn, who has been in the bottom numerous times already, was set to go home if he hadn't taken the step to drop immunity. Instead, she's still there and he isn't. (And honestly, she should have left ages ago.)
Nonetheless, Lynch has no regrets making this unprecedented move. And the good news: he has a chance to get back in the competition. (It's pre-taped so he knows what is going to happen but he can't say.)
In his first "Last Chance Kitchen" challenge, he was able to oust Jim Smith. (Smith is now known as the nicest guy ever to be on the show and I'm sure the producers will ask him back at some point.)
"I don't want to win the title of 'Top Chef' by playing games," Lynch said before "Last Chance Kitchen." "I realize it's a competition but at the end of the day, the best chef wins."
For Lynch, though, a tough road remains. He's going to have to win at least five more times to get a shot at the crown. But "quickfires are kind of my jam," Lynch said.
I would post the episode but the embed code is auto play, which means it will play whether you want to or not. I hate that. So watch it here.
He knew this was a tough competition going in. "Everybody on the show is a bad ass," he said. "Everyone is talented. Everybody has a bag of tricks. No matter how you get to the end, it's going to be a tough road."
For instance, he was as shocked as the other chefs when Sam Talbot was the first of the returning chefs to get cut episode three after it appeared the judges liked everybody's dishes. He also found the 48-hour barbecue challenge especially grueling. "After 30 hours, you become unglued," he said. "The house was pretty quiet that afternoon" after the challenge ended.
My favorite moment of the season so far: Padma Lakshmi not appearing while the chefs awaited instructions on the quickfire challenge. Instead, the clock started and the pantry door opened. They had to begin cooking what one chef figured was biscuits based on the ingredients available. Only partway through did Padma appear to confirm, yes, it was a biscuit challenge. He got through that one.
The good news, win or lose, he said, was the lessons he picked up from the other chefs.
"It's a tight fraternity," Lynch said. "We're all buds. We keep in touch. Only a small group can say they did this and we're those people. You can take away lot and grow as a chef. You learn a lot of different techniques and approaches to food. Food philosophies and things like that."
He said two dishes on his Atlanta 5Church menu are inspired by other chefs from "Top Chef":
- Ahi tuna poke. It has avocados, chilies, pineapple, soy sherry and puffed rice. "Sheldon [Simeon] is from Maui. I've always done tuna tartar or crudo. This one was inspired by Hawaii."
- Chicken Adobo It has crushed Charleston gold rice & shaved broccoli lemon ash. His inspiration: Shirley Chung.
He admitted the returning chefs had an advantage the first few challenges. They were already familiar with the "Top Chef" kitchen and how to cook on a clock. And they came in with tighter strategy, he said.
"You go in trying to memorize some recipes, build your bag of tricks," he said. "But the reality is you never know what will be in the pantry or what the challenge will be. It's kind of just luck."
"Top Chef," Thursdays, 9 p.m., Bravo