Jody Under Construction

By Erin Byers Murray | Boston Magazine |

A FEW WEEKS AFTER sharing the stage with Governor Patrick, Adams, wearing a knee-length skirt and a sporty jacket, visits the still-raw space that will become Trade. The restaurant’s name, chosen by Adams and her two partners, Sean Griffing and Eric Papachristos, comes from its location inside the former Russia Wharf Building, a historical goods-trading hub. It’s set at the corner of Congress Street and Atlantic Avenue, with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the Greenway. The site is still a tangle of cables and lumber, with workers in hardhats scurrying about.

Adams is pointing out where the Wood Stone oven will go; she and the restaurant’s chef de cuisine, Andrew Hebert, traveled to Washington State, where the oven company is based, to test it out a few weeks back. The oven will be the primary cooking source for the many flatbreads and roasted entrées on the menu, which, along with everything else having to do with this place, Adams keeps describing as “simple.”

“Think really simple,” she says, referring to the clean lines and pops of color architect Maryann Thompson has planned for the design, which will preserve the building’s original vaulted ceilings and steel beams. Simple, too, is the hot line in the kitchen, to include that wood oven, a couple of burners, and a grill—but also a flat, griddlelike cooktop called a plancha (“less pans to wash,” notes Adams).
And there’ll be a simple, casual menu: small plates, flatbreads, salads, entrées. The flavors will be bold, she says, but not ambitious. “We want to make sure that everything we’re putting on the plate is what we want it to be. And that we can meet the volume that walks through this door.”

And if the crowds do pour in, the effect could be monumental. Trade occupies a coveted piece of real estate—a gateway to the Fort Point Channel neighborhood that’s been up and coming for years, yet has remained disconnected from the rest of the city’s dining scene. The opening of Trade, along with the neighboring steakhouse Smith & Wollensky, could take the hopeful vision of chefs Barbara Lynch and Joanne Chang, who have set up shop across the channel, to an entirely new level. Our downtown dining landscape, a sleeper compared with, say, the scene in the South End or Back Bay, might finally wake up.
ADAMS DIDN’T FOLLOW the usual culinary-school path to greatness. After studying at Brown, where she majored in anthropology, she worked with a writer and teacher named Nancy Verde Barr, whom the chef credits with teaching her the fundamentals of cooking. Barr also introduced Adams to Julia Child, who would become a major inspiration. When Adams moved to Boston to join her soon-to-be husband, Ken Rivard, Child gave her some simple advice: “Go work for Lydia.”

At the time, Lydia Shire was one of a handful of chefs—and, really, the only woman—defining Boston cuisine. She worked at Seasons, in the Bostonian Hotel, along with Gordon Hamersley, who wound up granting an interview to Adams despite the fact that, to that point, she’d cooked only as a caterer. Hamersley wound up passing her over for someone with actual restaurant experience. Ten days later, though, disappointed in his first choice, he made Adams an offer.

“She burned fish, she burned meat, she bled all over the place,” recalls Hamersley. But she learned quickly, and when Hamersley and his wife, Fiona, opened their eponymous bistro in the South End in 1987, Hamersley brought Adams with him. There, he says, she was “instrumental” in the creation of new recipes, many of which, like his well-known roast chicken, he still serves today.