5Church’s Jamie Lynch takes on Bravo’s “Top Chef”
hat do you do when Bravo’s “Top Chef” invites you to be a “cheftestant” on its 14th season? If you’re executive chef Jamie Lynch, who owns 5Church restaurants in Charlotte, Charleston and Atlanta, you waffle.
“I was flattered, but competing on TV was never my dream. I run restaurants; I feed people,” says Lynch. “But then my partners [Patrick Whalen, Ayman Kamel, Alejandro Torio] said, ‘Dude, are you crazy?’ So I decided to give it a whack.”
For Season 14, which premiered on December 1, “ Top Chef” brought 16 cooks to Charleston to compete in Low Country cuisine challenges. “I have a restaurant in Charleston, so I had some idea of the culinary history and what direction the challenges might take,” says Lynch. “Still, competing against a roster of bad-ass chefs, with a time-clock on my back, and the thought ‘I’m going to be seen on national TV,’ added a huge level of stress. You could say I was the fidgety one.”
Now that he’s lived through the experience, he’s glad he did it. “All the chefs were high-caliber, the kind of people who intimidate and inspire you. At the end of the day, I learned a ton,” he says.
At 16, Lynch fell in love with kitchen life while working as a dishwasher in a Boston bar and grill. “Before I even knew what cuisine was, I knew I wanted that high-octane, fullthrottle approach to work,” he says.
He earned a culinary degree at New England Culinary Institute in Burlington, Vermont, before honing his craft at famed New York restaurants Le Cirque 2000, Aureole, Café Boulud and Tocqueville. “After 9/11, my partners and I moved to Charlotte for a fresh start. We opened 5Church in 2012 with not much money but a lot of passion,” he says. Three months later, with the Democratic National Convention in town, 5Church’s popularity soared thanks to candidates and delegates who heaped praise onto the restaurant after dining there. So, why open a 5Church in Atlanta? “It’s the biggest city in the Southeast. It’s where the big dogs throw down,” Lynch says. And he loves having a bigger space with two patios (rooftop and sidewalk) in the heart of Midtown. Atlanta’s foodie vibe reminds him of New York. “People are open minded and willing to try the fresh and new,” he says. “I love that.”
His partners tell him that more patrons will want to meet him after his TV gig. “I’ve been working on my autograph a bit, just in case,” he says.
STORIES: Laura Raines
Photo: Paul Cheney/Bravo Media