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A pre-saved Shallal chatting with Top Chef-er Carla Hall

For those who thought the protracted chef competition for Andy Shallal‘s new Eatonville project was a sinful act of pride, you might be happy to learn that the Busboys & Poets owner was saved yesterday. Fittingly enough, Shallal’s salvation came in Eatonville, Fla., the town for which his forthcoming Southern eatery took its name.

Earlier this week, Shallal and his recently hired chef flew down to Eatonville, the first all-black town to be incorporated in the United States, to understand the culture and food that influenced its most famous resident, Zora Neale Hurston. Their travels took them to St. Lawrence AME Church, a house of prayer that dates back to the late 19th century.

The church, according to Shallal, has only 90 members, but they must make a seriously holy noise. When the minister asked who wanted to be saved, not only did Shallal raise his hand but so did Brian Evans, a Busboys employee who accompanied his boss on the tour.

The minister rubbed olive oil on Shallal’s forehead, pounded on his chest and head, and prayed that the restaurateur’s body and soul would “unite,” Shallal said this morning as he and the crew were headed to New Orleans. “It was actually a moving experience,” Shallal said. “I’m not religious, but culturally, it was very rich.”

So do you feel any different today?

“Alas, no,” Shallal said.