Jamie’s affinity for the restaurant business began when he was only 16 years old, working his first job as a dishwasher at a local bar and grill in a Massachusetts fishing town.
“I fell in love with the intense, high-octane kitchen life there,” he says. “That’s where it all started.” A New York native who spent many of his formative years in Massachusetts and Florida, Lynch moved to New Hampshire after graduating high school and began working at a from-scratch Mexican restaurant learning the nuances of cooking. After studying knife skills and how to approach different flavors, Lynch’s passion for food was solidified. “It was the only thing that came naturally to me, and that catapulted me into fine food and upscale kitchens.”
While attending the New England Culinary Institute in Burlington, Vermont, Jamie completed an externship at Aqua in San Francisco under famed chef Michael Mina. Cooking at Mina’s four-star restaurant fueled his desire to train under the highest caliber of chefs possible. After graduating, Jamie returned to New York City, where he was offered a prestigious position at Le Cirque 2000 in The Palace Hotel. He polished his technique while working under chef Andrew Carmellini, who would become his longtime mentor.
Jamie continued his training at culinary heavyweights Aureole under Charlie Palmer and Daniel Boulud’s, Café Boulud, again under Andrew Carmellini before settling in as Sous Chef at Touquevillle Restaurant in Union Square. “At that time, we had an all or nothing approach to cooking, we ate, drank and slept food. It was ether the very best we could do, or it was garbage.” Says Jamie, reflecting on his years cooking in NYC.
Then, the events of 9/11 brought him down South, forever changing his culinary style. Upon moving to Charlotte in 2002, Lynch worked at Ethan’s, a new American bistro, and met farmer Sammy Koenigsberg of New Town Farms. “Seeing his produce, the chickens he was raising and the flavors he was cultivating from the earth just blew my mind,” Lynch recalls. “Before I knew it, I was spending all my days off there to help. My attention shifted to the product and how it got to the plate.”
Lynch’s relationship with Charlotte’s sustainable farming community and the local dining culture grew from there, and in 2012 he accomplished his dream of starting his own restaurant with the opening of Church and Union in the heart of Uptown Charlotte. Since opening Church and Union Charlotte in 2012, Jamie has garnered many accolades; Cheftestant on Season 14 and Season 17 All Star of Bravo’s Top Chef and voted BEST CHEF in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2018, and 2020 in Charlotte Magazine’s BOB (Best of the Best) Awards. Lynch considers himself lucky to be part of the “eclectic bunch” of partners behind Church and Union and uses this as inspiration for his food. “I don’t stick to one particular type of cuisine; it’s more of a hybrid of flavors from all over the world because it’s important to me that my menus speak to the diversity of our group,” he says. “I try to create dishes that excite the palate and are visually appealing, but I use traditional techniques to tie everything together.”
In his spare time, Lynch enjoys being on his sailboat and spending time with his teenaged son, Max, who has grown up in Church and Union’s kitchen and already displays a strong work ethic just like his father’s – working at a 5th Street Group restaurant!