"The only real stumbling block is fear of failure," Julia Child once said. "In cooking, you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude." Whether she was gleefully whacking apart a chicken or drizzling a bit more cream into a dish, Child’s "what-the-hell" attitude made her America’s first kitchen superstar. It also made her a beloved fixture in Boston, where she lived for over three decades. Today, the city’s restaurant scene has a unique attribute: In what is still a heavily male-dominated industry, many of Boston’s top restaurateurs are women. Is this Julia’s doing?
We talked to two very different restaurateurs to find out more: Joanne Chang, an Ivy League mathematician-turned-pastry chef (chef/owner Flour, Myers + Chang), and the inimitable Barbara Lynch, a self-taught Southie who in 2014 became just the second woman to win a James Beard Award (CEO, Barbara Lynch Gruppo).
In many ways, Boston’s restaurant industry isn't different from any other city’s. The work is physically demanding, the hours are long, and the pressure is high and constant. It's a challenging environment for anyone to succeed in. Those who thrive in this atmosphere are the ones who stand a chance at long-term success, no matter their gender. But unlike New York or San Francisco, which must serve enormous populations and cater to an up-all-night culture, Boston serves smaller communities that tend to go home by 10 or 11. So the hours here are a bit more humane, and importantly, the average Boston diner stands a good chance of knowing the chef’s history around town. In such a small city, once a chef earns a reputation, her fans are liable to follow her wherever she goes.