Back of the House

Barbara Lynch Keeps Busy with Fine Dining and a New Cookbook

Photo: Justin Ide

“It’s very grown-up, very glamorous” says Barbara Lynch about her as-yet-unnamed Fort Point fine dining restaurant, slated to open in mid-January. Not only is Lynch preparing to launch a new restaurant, but her first cookbook Stir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition, named for her South End demonstration kitchen and cookbook library, hits stores on November 2. The No. 9 Park chef gave us the details about her cookbook, fine dining, and what she cooks for herself.

Stir is your first cookbook. Why did you wait until now?
Actually, I first met with Houghton Mifflin six years ago, so the book’s been in the works for a while, but when I got busy, I put it to the side and said “oh, I just don’t have time for this right now.” I think that once I opened up Stir, the dishes were mainly ones I was preparing in front of my classes there, so it made it a little easier to do the book. I didn’t have to take a month off or two months or however long it takes. I could actually do it while working.

Has the book’s concept changed at all from what you thought it would be six years ago?
I think we were originally heading more towards a chef-driven book, but as it progressed, we just loved the food we were doing. It’s food I’ve been doing for twenty, 25 years. It’s simple Italian food that everyone could cook. I found that people seemed to enjoy that the most at Stir, like “oh my God, I can cook this! This is easy, this is great.” So that’s what the book’s all about.

What was the most challenging part of writing the cookbook?
Definitely writing the recipes down for four people or six people. Normally, I just cook and go with it, but keeping track of the recipes and measuring everything out was a challenge. It’s important that the recipes really really work, and that the food tastes just like it did when you had it at No. 9 Park or any of the other restaurants.

How did you decide which recipes to include?
I would say that most of the recipes are from when I first started No. 9 and my first five years there: chestnut bisque, truffled gnocchi, prune-stuffed gnocchi. We started with a few hundred recipes. Of course, you’re sad to see some go, but after the book was done, we would try some of the dishes that did get removed and it was “Oh, thank god” because there would be ten saute pans and stuff people really couldn’t do at home. I give the editor a lot of credit for keeping it accessible.

What do you cook at home?
Right now, it’s lots of soups with vegetables from the farmers’ market, roast chicken, lots of veggies. Very simple. Sometimes, I’ll make pasta or a big bowl of risotto with a salad.

What are your plans for your new restaurant?
It’s going to be a little more spacious than what No. 9 is right now and a little more refined. Service will be a little more formal, we’ll have captains and all that. It’s very grown-up, basically, very glamorous. It’s a place you’ll want to go for an occasion, like an anniversary or a birthday.

No. 9 Park isn’t exactly a casual restaurant, so what do you mean by “more refined?”
It’s a very different feeling than No. 9. First of all, the ceilings are a lot higher than No. 9, which creates a very different feel in the room. It’s a lot more spacious. Obviously, at No. 9, the food is incredible and the service is incredible, but this is going to be up another notch. It’s going to feel completely different. I’m going to have two fine dining restaurants in the city, and one’s not going to compete against another.

What is the cuisine going to be like?
It’s going to be a little more skewed towards Provençal: light, plenty of fish, lots of vegetables. It’s going to be a tasting menu with four or seven courses. The projected check average is about $145 a person, without wine.

What’s next after fine dining?
(laughs) Oh my god, nothing. Let me get through this. I want to get back to everything else and check in with No. 9, with Stir, The Butcher Shop. Give me a year to get this under my belt.

How do you feel about opening a high-end restaurant in this economic climate?
I’m nervous whenever I open a restaurant, be it high-end or casual! The economy doesn’t scare me as much as the act of opening a restaurant.

Have you ever considered expanding beyond Boston?
I haven’t put it out of my mind, but I love this city and I love seeing it expand and grow. I love my location. I’ve always been a big fan of the Fort Point Channel area, so when this opportunity came along, I thought “why not?” I just haven’t really researched other cities. Other cities want me there, but I’m not really focused on that right now. Right now, it’s really just Boston for me.

Barbara Lynch Keeps Busy with Fine Dining and a New Cookbook