Everyone's Talking About Jody Adams

Jody Adams

Photo by Chad Griffith

There’s no question that Jody Adams is a beloved figure in Boston. In going through interviews, I realized I had no shortage of complimentary anecdotes from her colleagues, mentors, and understudies to include in this month’s magazine piece, Jody Under Construction.

Here are just a few that didn’t make it to the final cut:

Joanne Chang, owner of Flour Bakery and Myers & Chang
“She had advice that I still give to my managers and my cooks today. At some point [while working for her] I was going through some stressful incident, and I came back into kitchen and I was really upset. And she looked at me and she said, ‘Joanne, it’s just dinner.’ And I thought, you know, she’s right. When you’re in the middle of that, of anything that stressful, you can easily get caught up in whatever is bothering you. But she said, ‘It’s just dinner. At 11 o clock, all of these people will have eaten and will have gone home. So whatever is freaking you out right now, you need to put it in perspective and think: it’s just dinner.’ So now, when things get out of hand at the bakery or [Myers & Chang], I still will tell my cooks: It’s just dinner.”

Dante de Magistris, chef-owner of Dante and Il Casale
“I was taught by people throwing potatoes at my head in Italy and even here frankly in some places. So I started teaching that way. At Pignoli, Lydia [Shire] put me in charge for a little while, and next thing you know, pans are getting thrown at the wall, and I broke her tile. But Jody whipped me into shape to be a good manager. She always said to me, ‘You have a great palate, you’re great with food and understand it like most people don’t. Don’t question that. Now focus on this, on being a better manager.’ She let me make mistakes, too, and somehow, every time, I saw what I needed to do. And most of the time, it just came from listening to Jody on a weekly basis.”

Caroline Johnson, executive chef of 80 Thoreau
“I went to Rialto to work under a woman. Women have a different sense of cuisine and style of cooking and I went in knowing it would be a different experience. I’d worked under really amazing people and had certainly gotten experience. I never felt like I couldn’t work under guys but felt like it would be an important part of my development. So six months after I got there, Tom [Fosnot] was promoted to be chef at Blu, and I got thrown into the fire with only six months of working in that kitchen. It got pretty intense, but Jody stepped in to help me figure out what was going on. She gave me plenty of management advice, and it was great to have someone with so much experience to help out.”

Michela Larson, restaurateur
“It’s funny, she seems like a such a toughie sometimes, but I think then you see her let go of that sometimes. I remember one night when we were doing a [James] Beard dinner in New York early in her career and we’d brought a server from Rialto with. So it was me and Jody and this server. And it was a nightmare to prep this dinner at the Beard House. It was all consuming the whole thing and by the end of day everybody was dead. But Jody was so giddy! We ended up going back to the hotel and she was literally giddy like a 12-year-old. And I’ve never even seen this side of her, but it was so charming.”

Gordon Hamersley, owner of Hamersley’s Bistro
“She was the first person I had a working relationship with where I would say something and she would get what I meant right away. I could articulate, like, ‘oh, here’s what I want to do for spring,’ and she would put it on a plate and I’d say, ‘That’s pretty close.” There was a friendship, lots of give and take and making fun of each other. She’s still someone who — these days, people don’t take the micky out of me very often and she totally does, still.”

Pat and Barbara Woodbury, of Woodbury Shellfish
“We met [Jody] when she was Gordon Hamersley’s sous chef and through her career as a restaurateur and star chef she remains a very warm and genuine person. There is no hype with Jody, she is so down-to-earth whether she is out on the flats checking out our work or cooking for some high-powered event. Jody’s personality is reflected in the beautiful and real food that she makes and the strong bonds she has with purveyors like us. She has been a huge supporter, both as a great customer but also as a champion of the local food movement.”