Jody Under Construction

By Erin Byers Murray | Boston Magazine |

“I’m approached [about starting new restaurants] all the time,” she says. “I’ve looked at tons of properties around Boston in the last four years on my own.”

Interestingly, the one idea that finally took was pitched to her by two men nearly 20 years her junior: Sean Griffing, most recently the general manager of Rialto, and Eric Papachristos, a former analyst with an MBA and the offspring of restaurateurs. “Eric and I were always talking about the next restaurant we were going to open,” says Griffing. Given that he was already working at Rialto, he says, it was a natural progression to join forces with Adams.

It didn’t take long for Adams to sign on. “Sean and I had talked for years, on and off, about the possibility of working together,” she says. “When we looked at what we all brought to the table, it was all so different, but it really makes a whole. They have new, fresh energy and perspective.”

Once the trio decided to partner up, they scouted spaces as a team.“We were all over the place—Kendall, Central, Seaport, downtown,” Griffing recalls. They eventually settled on the Russia Wharf building because of its architecture and locale. “The visibility is just spectacular,” says Adams.  

Over and over, Adams maintains that her intention is not to run the show, nor to take full credit for it. “Restaurants don’t exist just because of the chef,” she says. “They’re not successful just because of a chef. There’s a whole lot of people [and] pieces of the puzzle that are extremely important, and to assume that you’re the be-all, end-all is, you know, not me.”

But there’s no question what the public will take away: This is a Jody Adams project. When news broke that there were restaurants going into the building, which is now called Atlantic Wharf, the developers announced that a “celebrity chef” would be involved. And like the redo of Rialto, Trade’s design reflects that chef: light, airy, and energetic. The chef de cuisine, Andrew Hebert, worked at Rialto for almost seven years, so he understands Adams’s cooking style and can translate her menu precisely. She, of course, insists the menu will be as much his as hers, but its focus on healthful, approachable dishes is signature Adams.

And just as she’s launched the careers of so many at Rialto, she plans to use Trade as a proving ground for the next generation of chefs. Two prep-cook positions will be reserved for high school students enrolled in Future Chefs, the school-to-career program founded by Toni Elka, so that Adams can, as always, be a mentor.

The entire space, in other words, will be an extension of Jody Adams.

FLOATING THROUGH the Rialto dining room on a recent summer night, Adams approaches a table of strangers. One guest tries to order dessert from her. “Your server will come over and take that,” Adams replies.

The woman stammers, then a flash of recognition. “Wait—are you her? Are you … Jody Adams?” she squeals, eyes wide.

Adams responds by pointing to the name on her jacket. “That’s what they tell me,” the chef says, smiling. She takes another minute to ask about the meal before ducking back into the kitchen and calling it a night. There is a cooking class the next day—a biking trip to the market followed by lunch at the restaurant for 20 students. After that, she’ll have a rare day off before returning Monday morning to jump in again at 100 miles per hour.

Back at the table, the women are beaming. “That was Jody Adams!” one chirps. A real live celebrity chef.