Star chef and self-proclaimed troublemaker Barbara Lynch grew up in a housing project in South Boston. She was a runner for local bookies and quit high school a few credits short of graduation. But it was her home economics class at Madison Park High School in Roxbury where she discovered her talent for cooking. As her empire has grown–including No. 9 Park, The Butcher Shop and Menton, among others–so have the requests for donations from various organizations. So she created her own foundation to better understand exactly where her efforts and money go and to help ensure the work is effective. Working with City Year she’s helped teach Boston students about nutrition, how to cook and how to think about food. She has also supported Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship to create programming that teaches entrepreneurial skills and innovative thinking in underserved schools. Going forward she’d like to focus even more resources on helping women get started in the hospitality industry.
F&W Star Chef
Restaurants: No. 9 Park, Menton, B&G Oysters, Drink, Sportello, The Butcher Shop, Stir (Boston)
Experience: Michela’s (Cambridge, MA); Olives, Galleria Italiana (Boston)
What recipe are you most famous for?
Prune-stuffed gnocchi. It’s potato gnocchi filled with vin santo-soaked prunes, and the sauce is equal parts butter and foie gras, a beurre monté that gets whisked into a reduction of vin santo and shallots. On top, it gets seared foie gras and toasted almonds. It’s one of those dishes that I don’t think anyone has ever done. Italians don’t usually mix foie gras with pasta.
What ingredients do you love or hate at the moment?
I hate pork! I’m porked out. I think veggies are amazing. Right now, I’m in love with dried fava beans, and these really tiny baby kales.
Do you have a favorite new store-bought ingredient?
A quince spray called aceto di mele cotogne. It’s a quince vinegar, but in a spray bottle. I use it on delicate herbs and lettuces.
Where have you traveled recently?
I fell in love with Turkey. Oh, my god, Istanbul—I can’t wait to go back. It was my first time there. I loved Nar—I had the most incredible artichoke I’ve ever had! It was the size of a plate.
What is the most cherished souvenir you’ve brought back from a trip?
My Turkish teapot. I actually bought it from the hotel Kempinski Palace in Istanbul—it’s real silver.
What ingredient will people be talking about in five years?
I hope it’s mastic. And lily flowers. And all the Middle Eastern and Russian spices. I’m starting to gently incorporate those flavors into my food.
What is your hidden talent?
I love painting! I don’t get to do it much, but I take a week every year by myself and I go to Provincetown, Massachusetts, and take an art class. Last year I took figure drawing because I still can’t draw hands. The year before, I took oil on canvas.
What’s your favorite snack?
Pringles sour cream-and-onion potato chips with crème fraîche and sturgeon caviar. My executive chef loves the combination too, so whenever we travel, we’re like, “I’ll pick up the caviar!” “I’ll pick up the Pringles!”
What do you eat straight out of the fridge, standing up?
Watermelon. I’m on this Western diet, and watermelon fills you up but it’s also a fat melter. I’ll just puree it in a blender and have it with toasted walnuts.
Who’s your favorite chef on Twitter?
Chris Cosentino is really funny. Jesus Christ, that kid is always on there.
Won Best New Chef at: Galleria Italiana, Boston (closed)