Barbara Lynch was supposed to be cooking a private dinner at Menton with her mentor Lydia Shire last week to celebrate the restaurant’s 10th anniversary. Instead the meal is postponed and Lynch’s six restaurants and demonstration kitchen are temporarily closed amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
But another celebration for Menton is publicly available. Zagat, the restaurant discovery guide, has released an online documentary featuring the larger-than-life chef. Lynch calls Menton “the mother ship” of her collection in a three-minute-plus video tracing her rough-and-tumble arc from South Boston public housing to the trendy Seaport district.
“I want the C- grade students to hear my story and feel confident that they can run their own businesses one day, too, with a lot of hard work and unrelenting passion,” Lynch says about why she made the video. “(T)his felt like such a natural way to show people what we do and hopefully help others better understand what it takes.”
The video is part of “Zagat Stories,” a series of narratives designed to allow “chefs and restaurateurs to express themselves in their own words,” says Chris Stang, Zagat’s CEO. “A lot of people had to fight to get where they are and, sometimes, it’s nice to hear that part” directly from them.
Zagat Stories is also part of Zagat’s recent relaunch as an online brand since its famed burgundy print books ceased publication in 2016. Tim and Nina Zagat founded the crowd-sourced ratings guide in 1979. It was sold in 2011 to Google, and acquired in 2017 by The Infatuation, an online restaurant recommendation site of which Stang is also CEO.
In November, Zagat released a 2020 New York City guide but has no plans for other printed city books. The New York results are available in the guide only. A Los Angeles survey is ending soon and the results will be included in a newly designed Zagat website released later this year.
Lynch is a longtime Zagat fan. “When I first started cooking and traveling, it was what I always used to figure out where to eat,” she says. “Having my restaurants in the Zagat guide was really validating for me.”
In the Zagat video, Lynch regales viewers with her childhood antics (including stealing an MBTA bus), lights up a cigarette, and struts on screen toting a black Alexander McQueen purse edged with silver studs. Lynch, who is presently focused on taking care of her team and cooking for loved ones, takes umbrage: “You know, people always call me a badass, but I’m actually really sensitive.”
Peggy Hernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow her on Twitter @Peggy_Hernandez.