Tonight I attended a networking event hosted by my high school at The Butcher Shop, one of super-chef Barbara Lynch's restaurants. I had been anticipating the evening for over a month because Barbara herself, one of my culinary idols, would be there. If you aren't familiar with this James Beard Award-winning firecracker of a woman, you probably do not live in Boston. But even if you do, here's just one interesting and entertaining article about Barbara that ran in Boston Magazine this winter. To call her a fascinating and brave woman is an understatement, and before showing up tonight I tried to imagine what I'd say if given the opportunity to speak to the chef herself.
When I arrived at the restaurant I was not feeling well at all, and actually only planned to stay for 20 minutes. But then I saw Barbara chatting with a few women several feet from me, and I was suddenly struck with nervous excitement. There were copies of her new cookbook, Stir, on the massive butcher block in the center of the restaurant, and she greeted the group warmly and genuinely. As she read an excerpt from the book's introduction, I was both inspired to hear HER talk about her tough upbringing in Southie, and also felt just a tiny bit jealous that she was able to find her passion for food so early in life. On my best of days, I am just another foodie and slightly-better-than-average cook/baker who will feed anyone willing to be fed. But I harbor a deep desire to do something related to food for a job. Now that I am not chained to a desk all week, I've been able to make my passion for food a much bigger part of my life because I actually have the time for it. It's grown into more than simply a hobby, but still I wonder... could there be a career for me in the food world? And, if so, what would it be?
After Barbara finished reading, we were invited to buy her cookbook and have her sign our copies. I can only speculate that some of Barbara's ballsiness rubbed off on me, because as I stood second in line, I quickly thought of something to ask her that could lead into a short discussion. Who knew, maybe this woman who proudly admits to always following her instincts would get an instinct from me! I started by shaking her hand and telling her that I really admire her and her ambition. Then I launched into a breathless speech about being trapped in corporate America, yet all I can think about is food, how to get it, how to make it. She chuckled and asked what I do for work so I told her. At this point I had already been standing with her for far too long, and there was a line of people waiting with their cookbooks behind me. But then some fire in my belly inspired me to say, "I don't know what your next venture will be but..."... and then more spewing... "I'm always interested in hearing how other people have been able to take their skill set and apply it in a field they're truly passionate about!"... and "Have you ever considered developing your own products?" At this point, likely exhausted from hearing me over-share for 30 seconds, Barbara Lynch turned to me and said, "Do you have a card? We should get lunch." Jaw. Dropping. Must. Remain. Calm. By some miracle I dug a business card from the depths of my wallet. Knowing full well that she was probably just being generous and trying to move the line along, I passed her my card and thanked her again for having us at the restaurant. (Did I mention that she just opened her latest location FOUR days ago?) As if this encounter wasn't enough to send me into the streets clicking my heels, I had the nerve to approach her yet again on my way out, and she stole a business card from one of her employees, on which she wrote her email address with a Sharpie. Barbara Lynch's email, in her writing, in my hand. A memento, in my sister's words, worthy of being stashed under my pillow.
I don't know what spirit possessed me tonight, but if I do have the fortune of meeting Barbara Lynch again, you will read about it here. You know, just don't expect me to share our latest business idea...