Chef Barbara Lynch poses for a photo Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 in Miami Beach, Fla.

Credit: Wilfredo Lee/AP

Barbara Lynch Discusses Her Journey To Become One Of Boston's Top Chefs

April 11, 2017

If you live in Boston and fancy yourself a foodie, you'll know the name "Barbara Lynch." She's the chef and restaurateur behind a small army of the city's culinary powerhouses — No. 9 Park, Sportello, Drink, B&G Oysters, and Menton, to name a few.

But it wasn't always that way. Lynch started out as a girl from Southie who loved home economics class and her mom's tuna-and-pickle-juice sandwiches. Lynch's rise from Madison Park High School to No. 9 Park is the subject of her new memoir, "Out Of Line: A Life Of Playing With Fire."

Lynch joined Boston Public Radio to discuss the book, her childhood living in close proximity with Whitey Bulger, and what food she could eat every day. A selection of the conversation is below.

On her childhood growing up in Southie, where she was an amateur bookie:

"Out of my gang of 28 friends, I was the one who got bused. I ended up at Madison Park High, which was super chaotic at that time, right at the height of forced busing. Also, I had ADD, I didn't know I had ADD. They put me in these special classes and I was like, 'What am I doing here?' I hated math, but I loved taking numbers and placing bets so I did that for a little while. I would never place the bets and just put the money in my pocket."

On the decision to write a memoir:

"I'm really happy I did do it, because — at age 48 — I let go of all the secrets. I don't have those secrets anymore. It was really cathartic and therapeutic. I still live in Southie, so it was like, 'I got to move on.' To move on, you have to clear it out. I closed it and then I did move—to Annisquam."

On the journey from Madison Park to No. 9 Park:

"I knew if I could cook, I would always have a job. My mother worked at the St. Botolph Club for years, so I started working at the club at age 14 but making bets. So from 14-22, I worked at the club as a server as well. I saw how happy people were with really amazing food. I figured if I could cook, I'll always have a job and I could make people happy."

On learning to have a feeling for cooking:

I feel really comfortable in the kitchen. I'm a shy person and I'm a hermit, and in the kitchen, I feel most comfortable and most calm ... I had to create my own recipes because I couldn't read recipes. I would listen to people talk about their travels and then try to make it. I like cooking. I could eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day. I'm not a foodie foodie. I just love cooking food.

Click on the audio player above to hear the entire interview with Barbara Lynch. This transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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