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Barbara Lynch

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Barbara Lynch, founder of the Barbara Lynch Grupoo, is a leading chef in the Boston-area.

Born in 1964, Lynch grew up in a housing project in South Boston. Her father was a taxi driver up until his death from a heart attack a month before Barbara was born, leaving her mother with seven kids. Her mom worked as a waitress at a private club called the St. Botolph Club , and her family never ended up on welfare.

Lynch got her first paid cooking job making dinner for the priests living in the rectory when she was 13. But it was in high school when an influential home economics teacher and a job working with Chef Mario Bonello at the St. Botolph Club piqued her interest in one day becoming a professional chef. Lynch didn’t do any of her homework in high school, and she was failing everything. When she was senior, her school told her she would have to take summer school to graduate. Lynch said no to that option and dropped out.

But it was OK, her love for cooking would lead her to her current-day entrepreneurial ventures. During her early 20s, Lynch worked under some of Boston’s greatest culinary talents. After working with Todd English for several years at Michaela’s and Olives, Lynch traveled to Italy where she learned about the country’s cuisine firsthand from local women. She returned to Boston and became the executive chef at Galleria Italiana.

In 1998, Lynch opened a restaurant of her own, No. 9 Park, in Boston’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. It received rave reviews from publications around the country and was named one of the “Top 25 Restaurants in America” by Bon Appetit and “Best New Restaurant” by Food & Wine.

Around 2002, Lynch decided to open an oyster bar with simple food and an extensive wine list. But when she was signing the lease on a place and then noticed a storefront across the street that was also empty. She thought to herself: Why do construction on one restaurant when we could do two at the same time? She wanted a place where you could sit down and get a meal, but also a place where you could pick up a meal to take home, too.

Lynch continued to grow her culinary empire by opening three unique concepts in succession: in 2005, Niche Catour, a catering company; Plum Produce in September 2006; and next door, Stir, a demonstration kitchen and cookbook store, in 2007.

Lynch is continuing to receive national recognition for her work. In 2003, the James Beard Foundation named her “Best Chef Northeast” while in 2007, Boston Magazine named Barbara “Best Chef.” In 2011, she was named Distinguished Chef by Johnson and Wales University and was also the recipient of the Women Chefs & Restaurateurs’ Barbara Tropp President’s Award. In 2013, Lynch was inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America, a prestigious group of the most accomplished food and beverage professionals in the country, and also received an honorary doctorate in public service from Northeastern University in recognition of her culinary and philanthropic contributions.

In 2012 she established the Barbara Lynch Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to empowering families and providing leadership and resources to help create inspired futures for Boston’s youth.

Companies and Investments

The Barbara Lynch Gruppo (Owner, CEO, founder), Barbara Lynch Foundation (founder).

Lessons Learned

1) I got some advice from a friend of my future husband’s brother, who helped me with the business plan. Then I started networking throughout Boston. My first angel investor was Arnold Hiatt, an executive at Stride Rite Corporation. I was very conservative about my plan. I didn’t come in with lots of data or charts telling them how many seats I was going to have. I knew I wanted my check average to be $56, and I made clear that I wasn’t going to set myself up to fail. I wasn’t trying to set myself up as the best chef in the city. I was just going to have a really great restaurant that is attainable and not intimidating. I think my investors loved the fact that I was self-taught, that I came from Boston, that I was raised by a mother with five other children and that I was clearly a hard worker.

2) I made it a point to pay (my investors) back in three years. I didn’t take a salary until I paid them back.

3) My advice would be, try to own the property. I don’t care if it’s a garage but buy it because with me, nine restaurants later, I don’t own any of my buildings. I lease.

Inspiring Quotes

In medieval times the habit arose of expressing a mans wealth, no longer in terms of the amount of land in his estate, but of the amount of pepper in his pantry. One way of saying that a man was poor was to say that he lacked pepper. The wealthy lacked pepper. The wealthy kept large stores of pepper in their houses, and let it be known that it was there: it was a guarantee of solvency.

Waverly Root

Drink wine every day, at lunch and dinner, and the rest will take care of itself.

Waverly Root

Barbara Lynch's Quotes

I have always been a risk-taker, even as a kid.

Barbara Lynch

Part of the problem is that many women have insecurities about being a chef and not understanding the business side. When I started, I had a general manager and a business manager, both men, and they would sit down, go over the profit-and-loss statements every month, and I had a hard time understanding those P.& L.’s. They made me feel, “Oh you’re just a chef from the projects. You don’t know anything.” But after a while, I felt something wasn’t right. I realized I had to learn the business side, too, because this is my vision and it all comes from the top.

Barbara Lynch

I’d wake up in the morning and see this dilapidated building we lived in, and I knew there had to be a better life.

Barbara Lynch

Influential Books

Barbara Lynch - Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition

Waverly Root - Waverly Root's the Best of Italian Cooking

Mentors

Husband, Mother, Waverly Root

References


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