Boston Chef Barbara Lynch on Her Love of Instagram, Her Biggest Competition + Pig Bladders

Boston Chef Barbara Lynch

Those who’ve enjoyed the unforgettable white tablecloth experience at Menton or toasted with a craft cocktail at Drink may be surprised with the New England specialty that Boston chef Barbara Lynch kicks back with — anyone not from Boston, that is. The James Beard Award winner and sole female Relais & Châteaux grand chef in North America has stayed true to her humble roots while creating an empire for fine-dining and imbibing just a few miles down the road from where she grew up as one of seven kids and entered the hospitality industry as a waitress. Today, she has three kids of her own, six restaurants, the demonstration kitchen Stir, and a legacy that makes her a household name in one of the country’s most historic cities.

So a chef can’t eat four-course dinners every night. What’s your typical meal or favorite indulgence?

If I make something for myself quickly, it’s probably spicy hummus and cucumbers and lettuce. But I love fried clams and French fries.

Sounds like a true Bostonian! You were one of the first people to take the step and invest in the Seaport District and now it’s booming. But why take a chance when you did?

I just love being part of a community. A community strengthens your success in a way, and you’re always part of it. Fort Point had soul. Those old warehouses still had bones in them even though they were empty. It was desolate but I even knew as a kid that I wanted to be there. … I’m so glad I did three restaurants [Menton, Sportello, and Drink] instead of one at the same time. That would have been a $@*&ing temple sticking out down there, and you need the support and diversity. Now every two seconds there’s another building going up and it’s different than I envisioned — I thought it would be more of an urban environment with a school or a grocery store. But I’m still glad.

Boston Chef Barbara Lynch

Why not branch out of Boston, and lend your name to like, a hotel restaurant in Vegas or something?

I don’t have partners, so I don’t just go in and do a turnkey. I don’t want to go in and sell a name. Not to say I wouldn’t with the right deal and that I feel my team is ready to move with me. It’s like giving birth and saying, ‘Oh, okay, I didn’t really like this kid, I’ll just give it away,’ and walk away. I can’t do it. It’s not me.

Did you know as a kid that you wanted to be a chef?

I was definitely around 12 or 13, and I was talking myself into ‘I’m a chef. I want to be a chef.’ I literally thought I was going to own a sub shop, though, not be where I am now. My pivotal moment was my first job on a boat [a Martha’s Vineyard dinner cruise]. It was a huge success, and I said, ‘Wow, this is fun!’ That’s the difference between our company and others. We’re here 90-plus hours a week, so you’ve got to just have fun with it. It’s going to be hard sometimes, but, most of all, it should be a great place to work.Continue Reading

10 Things You Need to Know About Top Chef Seattle Episode 11

The idea of elevating a humble cuisine is a bit tired, but last night it was inspiring to see Sheldon execute his mission to marry the authenticity of Filipino food with modern elegance.

This season has been supremely frustrating, from the appearance of the grating and gangly CJ to the non-cancellation of The Josie Show, but this episode is really the sour cherry atop all of that. Don’t get me wrong; it was so satisfying to see Sheldon shine, but if you were on Twitter and following the #topchef action, you’re well aware of the mutiny among viewers prompted by the events at judges’ table.

1. Stefan was immediately singled out to do front of house because he’d been through restaurant wars before. I see that logic, but not at all, because … it’s Stefan! He does not suffer fools, and, really, that’s part and parcel of FOH work. I will say, however, in my years as a hostess, I did often fantasize about being able to shame campers into moving on so that I could seat the throngs of hungry diners at the door.

2. Kristen basically called Josie classless.

3. Elevating a cuisine you’ve never had before is a hard thing to do. And Josh did just that, with Sheldon’s tutelage, of course.

4. Brooke has opened four (!) restaurants with her husband, so it’s no surprise that she has a deft front-of-house touch.

5. Sheldon may well be the most guileless, genuinely kind cheftestant this competition has ever seen.

6. Kristen would prefer to have a dishwasher as her sous. This sounds like an insult (and probably is), but Sheldon started out as a dishwasher and he employs his restaurant wars dishwasher to help with prep work.Continue Reading

Top 100 Restaurants in the U.S.: 2011 Diners’ Choice Award Winners Revealed

Menton, one of the newest restaurants from Chef Barbara Lynch is among Boston's most coveted reservations.

OpenTable is pleased to announce the winners of the 2011 Diners’ Choice Awards for top 100 best overall restaurants in the U.S. Derived from more than 10 million reviews submitted by OpenTable diners for more than 12,000 restaurants in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the list of honorees is a terrific dining guide for the year ahead!

The honorees span 34 states and Washington, D.C., and include Canlis in Seattle, Barbara Lynch’s Menton in Boston and John Besh’s Restaurant August in New Orleans. North Carolina tied the dining mecca of California with ten winning restaurants, while New York eateries claimed seven spots. South Carolina, Texas and Virginia each took six places. Colorado and Ohio restaurants earned four wins apiece, and Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts and Minnesota all won three nods. States also represented on the list of winners include Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Rhode Island, and Tennessee, among others.

Congratulations to this year’s winners. Diners, how many of our best-of restaurants have you dined at? Tell us here or join the discussion on Facebook!

Server Not Servant Blogger Patrick Maguire Shares Restaurant Service Secrets

Blogger Patrick Maguire is glad to be your server, not your servant. Capice?

In honor of the announcement of the 2011 Diners’ Choice Awards for Restaurants Providing the Best Service, we sat down with Boston blogger Patrick Maguire, a longtime service professional and champion of service providers via his popular Server Not Servant blog.

Patrick, as someone who sits on both sides of the equation, server and diner, how hard is it to execute service at these award-winning restaurants?

A lot harder than most people will ever know. I heard about what went on behind the scenes at Menton, arguably the new pinnacle of fine dining in Boston (Ed Note: Menton is on our list!). The planning, training, role-playing, and practice required to provide consistent, seamless service requires a huge investment of time, effort, and energy by everyone involved. Service is only one part of the overall dining experience. As I have said before, great service is execution; great hospitality is a mindset, an awareness, and a culture focused on making a meaningful and memorable connection with guests. If you make a memorable connection with your guests, you can convert them from being guests to becoming ambassadors for your restaurant.

What’s the most difficult aspect of being a service provider?

Staying on top of all of the information that you are bombarded with. With all of these new movements — the cocktail renaissance, snout-to-tail butchery, sustainable sourcing — the list is endless. And, diners have so much information, literally at their finger tips, that they expect servers to know exactly where their food is sourced, in addition to knowing the ingredients of each dish and how it is executed in the kitchen.

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