The winner of this year’s Outstanding Restaurateur award, Barbara Lynch has forged one of the country’s most acclaimed restaurant groups, Barbara Lynch Gruppo, which includes fine dining and casual concepts, a butcher shop, and a demonstration kitchen. The Boston native also runs a nonprofit, the Barbara Lynch Foundation, and has cultivated young chef talent like Kristin Kish and Colin Lynch (no relation).
Now that the JBFA dust has settled, we got in touch with Lynch to talk about her empire’s coming attractions, the cookbook that clicked her cooking philosophy into place, and where she ate during Beard Awards weekend.
JBF: Two months ago the New York Times reported that you said you were done opening restaurants. What's next for you and Barbara Lynch Gruppo?
BL: After I opened Menton, I told my staff I was taking a break from opening restaurants. This was much to everyone's relief; the previous four years had involved huge expansion with the opening of Drink, Sportello, and Menton. Since then, we have established the Barbara Lynch Foundation, I've been hard at work on a specialty food product company, and I'm working on my memoir. I’m not someone who can stay still, so I'm still striving to learn, grow, and evolve, and to also expand in ways that develop and nurture the talents of my long-term team members.
JBF: You’re known for mentoring and promoting other woman in the industry. Who are some women in the Boston restaurant world that we may not know about but should be paying attention to?
BL: Lydia Shire is absolutely amazing and helped put Boston on the culinary map decades ago. She is still cooking, funny as hell, and incredibly talented. I don't want to overlook how she has helped shape the Boston restaurant community. Rachel Klein just opened Liquid Art House—I've been a fan of hers for years. Cassie Piuma, a protégé of my dear friend Ana Sortun, is doing awesome things at Sarma. She is a really talented young chef.
JBF: You mentioned a forthcoming product company, which is called Barbara Lynch Made. Can you talk about that and what inspired it?
BL: We’re still in the development stages, but I will say that this is something that I'm incredibly excited about and can't wait to share with people. I essentially set out to create an all-natural product that was absolutely delicious and inherently healthy, and that would also make it easier for people to quickly cook awesome, nutritious meals at home—and even on the go! As a working mom, I know how hard it is to find time to shop and cook; as someone who works a ton and travels frequently, I know how hard it is to eat well when on the road. My goal is to help change the way we think about, prepare, and access healthy food.
JBF: In a recent Boston Globe video, you said that during your childhood you saved your money to buy cookbooks. Which books made a lasting impression on you?
BL: The first recipes I remember reading came from my mother's copies of Good Housekeeping, but a few years later I got my hands on Waverley Root's The Food of Italy. I hadn't heard of the majority of dishes, places, or ingredients, but I loved reading about the regional Italian cooking. In my early twenties I took my first trip to Italy. Riding the train through the countryside and eating along the way, the book suddenly made so much sense. Other books that had a profound influence on me include cookbooks from Robuchon and Ducasse. Those books are totally inspirational and I had to look up pretty much every word using a French-English dictionary.
JBF: Speaking of books, it's been about five years since the release of your cookbook, Stir. Have you considered doing other books?
BL: It's been a busy five years. After I finished Stir, I was focused on opening three concepts and really haven't stopped. I would absolutely consider another cookbook, but right now I'm focused on my memoir, which is slated for 2016.
JBF: Aside from attending the ceremony, how did you spend your Beard Award weekend? Where did you eat and with whom?
BL: I headed down a few days early and then I was psyched that my senior team could join me. Over the weekend, friends and I met the always amazing Ariane Daguin at Maison Premiere in Brooklyn before heading to the Kentucky Derby party at Eleven Madison Park. On Sunday evening, my team and I had an unforgettable meal at the Nomad. Monday evening, post-Awards, we headed across the street to Boulud Sud, a favorite.