Chef Barbara Lynch made her name as the erudite bad girl behind a small kingdom of restaurants, including Sportello and No. 9 Park. But with her latest venture—the city’s most ambitious upscale restaurant in years—she may be picking the battle of her life.
One night, Lynch finished signing 40-odd copies of Stir for investors, a glass of Spanish red steadying her hand, and headed to the bar at the Butcher Shop. She ate roast duck, with sides of chard and lentils, and a shared bottle of Sancerre rouge. Afterward, she drove the few blocks to Ginger Park, to meet up with some of her girlfriends and her husband. Petri was already holding court at the bar, flanked by Natalie van Dijk Carpenter, of the home design store Lekker, and Shannon Macklin, a chef’s-apparel designer whose husband, Jefferson, is Lynch’s COO. Something trance-y was playing on the sound system. Lynch sat at the end of the bar and ordered a “dirty, dirty, dirty” martini.
A stream of industry people began stopping by to pay their respects. Patricia Yeo, who had blazed brightly through a series of high-profile gigs in Manhattan before moving to Boston to take over Ginger Park’s kitchen, wandered over in her chef’s jacket. She made the carpetbagger’s mistake of saying, “Go Yankees,” which elicited boos from Lynch and her friends. Martin Breslin, the head chef of Harvard’s dining services, approached, along with Thomas John, the executive chef for Au Bon Pain, and they all traded pleasantries and news. Lynch once served on the Harvard food program’s board, and John, before entering the corporate world, was a fellow Food & Wine Best New Chef, when he was at Mantra.
“So, did you move to South Boston?” John asked.
“Yes, I did. I have a restaurant. Two new ones there. Sportello and Drink.”
“You know,” said a third gentleman, who appeared deeply familiar with tanning beds, “we own that little parking lot down the street.”
“You mean the one I never park in?” Lynch replied evenly. The fellow was in the produce business and irritated her, she explained later, because he was “always selling.”
He asked how her business was. “Good,” she said. “We’re surviving. Better year than last year, so far.”
The produce guy stayed another 20 minutes, and when he left, Lynch pantomimed committing ritual suicide.
“I know, I know, I know, I’m sorry,” Macklin said.
Petri asked Lynch if she’d been nice.
“I was very nice,” Lynch said, then ordered another dirty martini. She sipped it slowly, enjoying the respite before stepping back into the ring.