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'Out of Line': How Barbara Lynch Went From Stealing A Bus To TIME'S List Of 100 Most Influential People

May 16, 2017

“It’s almost as if you’re making a film and you have to act. You have to … live that person’s life,” said renowned chef Barbara Lynch about the experience of penning a memoir and touring to promote it. “I relived it when I wrote it, and now I’m dealing with it … so now it’s really over and I can live my life.”

The book is "Out of Line: A Life of Playing With Fire" and it details Lynch’s childhood in South Boston as a neighbor to Whitey Bulger, her turbulent path through the “warzone” of high school during an era of forced busing and her eventual ascension to her current status as a two-time James Beard Award-winning restaurateur.

“I couldn’t really read, because I had dyslexia and huge ADD,” said Lynch, who was dubbed “Knuckles” as a child. Learning disabilities coupled with a tendency to act out — she stole a bus at the age of thirteen — all but eliminated Lynch’s chances at traditional academic success. In the kitchen, however, she thrived, and ended up finding employment in the culinary industry, even without ever having eaten at a restaurant herself. “Everything was backwards for me … I did everything backwards,” said Lynch.

Now owner of the Barbara Lynch Gruppo, Lynch oversees the operations of a number of acclaimed eateries around Boston. Her journey to this summit, though, was not without obstacles — among them, an apprenticeship with Boston chef Todd English. “I did learn a lot from him, but he’s not the one you want to learn from in terms of being a great leader,” said Lynch, recalling an episode in which a frustrated English poured a plate of spaghetti over her head. Yet another challenge, she found, was finding success in a field that has been known to treat women with hostility. “It’s tough for women in any job, honestly,” said Lynch, “but if you want something bad enough, you just go for it.”

That attitude has netted Lynch plenty of success, namely a spot as the lone chef on TIME Magazine’s 2017 list of 100 Most Influential People and the sale of the television rights to "Out of Line." Asked if her head swells as a result, the South Boston native, echoing her mother’s counsel, responded, “you’re fancy for, like, one minute, and then back.”

 


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