Dining in her restaurants, such as No. 9 Park or Menton, you would never guess that Barbara Lynch grew up eating canned vegetables and instant foods. But an early job at a private club introduced her to the idea that food can make people happy, and a home economics teacher took an interest in the future award-winning chef, seeing her talent and drive.
“I was never going to be able to afford college,” says Lynch, who skipped out on the last year of high school as well. “But I knew that I was going to make something of myself and that cooking was my way out.”
Her company, Barbara Lynch Gruppo, now includes seven Boston restaurants, which all, by the way, provide health and dental insurance, 401(k) plans, parental leave and educational opportunities to everyone on staff, from the line chefs to the dishwashers. She also published her memoir, Out of Line: A Life of Playing with Fire, earlier this year. Lynch, who will be speaking both at Opening Night and at the Conference, took time out from her hectic schedule to share what she has learned along her path.
“Treat people the way you would want to be treated, which is to say, with dignity. That’s the total opposite of how I was treated. I actually learned a lot about what not to do from watching my bosses. I’m not a screamer. I share information about our company. I’m available and approachable. Respect goes farther than money. It builds loyalty and trust and fosters a culture that feels like family.”
ON BEING BRAVE
“Face your fears and every day gets better. There are days when you don’t feel brave, and that’s natural. But still get up and be brave. You have one life. Make the best of it, no matter what.”
ON FINDING YOUR PASSION
“Think back to when you were 10 or 12. What got you excited? What did you love? I think that at that age, most parents aren’t yet telling their kids to be doctors or lawyers. They’re still letting you explore and be you. So go back to whatever it was and see if you still love it. If you do, give it a go!”
ON BOUNCING BACK
“It’s actually good to fail. You can learn a tremendous amount from it if you are willing to learn. For example, I had a produce store that was busy only on the weekends, and I ended up dehydrating the vegetables that weren’t selling. So the store is closed now, but now I have this product—dehydrated veggies that are super healthy and have a long shelf-life—that I want to bring to schools, hospitals and food deserts.”
ON MAKING SOMETHING EASY AND FAST FOR DINNER
“In summer, a one-pot shellfish stew is my go-to dish.” Here’s her recipe.
Barbara Lynch will be speaking at Opening Night and on a panel at the 2017 MA Conference for Women.