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Celebrated chef Barbara Lynch credits the defiant spirit of her upbringing in tough, poor "Southie," a neighborhood ruled by the notorious Whitey Bulger gang, with helping her bluff her way into her first professional cooking jobs; develop a distinct culinary style through instinct and sheer moxie; then dare to found an empire of restaurants ranging from a casual but elegant "clam shack" to Boston's epitome of modern haute cuisine.
One of seven children born to an overworked single mother, Lynch was raised in a housing project. She earned a daredevil reputation for boosting vehicles (even a city bus), petty theft, drinking and doing drugs, and narrowly escaping arrest--haunted all the while by a painful buried trauma.
Out of Line describes Lynch's remarkable process of self-invention, including her encounters with colorful characters of the food world, and vividly evokes the magic of creation in the kitchen. It is also a love letter to South Boston and its vanishing culture, governed by Irish Catholic mothers and its own code of honor. Through her story, Lynch explores how the past--both what we strive to escape from and what we remain true to--can strengthen and expand who we are.
Confessions of a chef
Out of Line details Barbara Lynch’s extremely unlikely journey from a “project rat” (her term) to a three-time James Beard award-winning chef living la belle vie. Along the way she falls in and out of infatuations, describes glorious meals and keeps readers on the edge of their seats.
Lynch’s teenage escapades—boosting a bus, driving without a license from Boston to Florida, flying to the Bahamas using stolen credit cards—are almost as jaw-dropping as her memories of growing up in the South Boston neighborhood under the eye of mobster Whitey Bulger. Lynch’s vivid memories, her straightforward and direct manner of telling stories and her obvious passion for food make these pages fly. The child of a single mother, Lynch remembers how her mom made everyday food special—pickle juice in the tuna salad, crushed saltines in the meatballs, a particular brand of tomato sauce. Here, Lynch acknowledges that care in the preparation of food happens at all levels, that lingering over flavor is part of what it means to be fully human.
The gutsiness that led her to steal that bus later enables her to accept a series of seemingly impossible professional tasks—single-handedly cooking a wedding feast in Italy, making dishes in Hawaii for hundreds, launching a variety of restaurants with the slenderest advance preparation. She admits to saying yes and figuring out the details later, a report that I find fully believable after traveling through several chapters at her side. This is a candid telling of how a devil-may-care attitude gave rise to one of the most powerful female restaurateurs in the country today.