Boston Public Market CEO Cheryl Cronin celebrates her second anniversary on the job in January. Cronin was an attorney before entering the food world, and she served as an adviser to political luminaries like John Kerry and Tom Menino. High-profile gigs, to be sure, though this new role has its perks — such as endless lunch options.
What’s the first restaurant you ever ate at in Boston? Anthony’s Pier 4. I remember it because of their popovers. I am a popover addict, and the funny thing is, we just brought in a new vendor, the Popover Lady. I have a soft spot for popovers.
What’s one thing you’d like to fix about the restaurant industry here? I think there’s been tremendous improvement, but we need to continually push toward more locally grown food. I think we’re seeing improvement, but there’s a long way to go.
How has the restaurant landscape changed since you arrived in Boston? I’m from Maryland originally. I came here for college, so I’ve been here for 100 years. We have amazing food, innovative chefs. In the old days, to have a great meal, you’d go to New York. That’s just not the case anymore. The chef community is really fun and interesting. We did a holiday team dinner at Townsman and said hello to Matt Jennings. Ana Sortun, . . . Joanne Chang — so many interesting folks have brought great food to Boston.
What other restaurants do you visit? Obviously I eat a lot at the market, of course. I eat at Sofra and Oleana, [Sortun]’s restaurants. I live in the Back Bay, so you’ll find my husband and me at the bar at La Voile, or at Deuxave, which is Chris Coombs’s restaurant on Mass. Ave. We cook a lot at home, to be honest. My husband is a really good cook. I have three sons, and they grew up in a home where the dad cooked, which is great.
What’s your earliest food memory that made you think, “I want to work in restaurants”? You learn so much from your kids. Several years ago, my middle son decided he was really interested in food. He works for a small food start-up. Several years ago, he started reading and sharing a lot of books about food, about what’s going on in the US in terms of the food systems, and he got me interested in thinking more about it, what you need to put into food for it to be able to travel. Once you become smart about something, you end up being a better consumer, and you pay more attention. Also, having kids! My oldest is 30. I remember being in the supermarket and looking for jarred food. I ended up finally discovering this food brand called Earth’s Best, which had just come out. They only did carrots and blueberries. That’s all he ate for his first year.
What’s the worst restaurant experience you’ve ever had? It wasn’t in Boston. My mother was English. The first time I went to London, I was 11. I had never met my grandmother. We went out to dinner, and the food was hideous! That has now changed dramatically, but it was a steak that was literally cardboard.
How could Boston become a better food city? By trying to develop a market district and creating areas that people see as a hotbed of new, innovative restaurants. By providing both geographic support and financial support to chefs. The food business has small margins, so you need the ability to spend money to get a restaurant or market [at] what it needs to be. It shouldn’t be the case that only large groups can carry a restaurant through to growth. Some venture funds are being established to invest in small businesses, and I think that’s great.
Name three adjectives for Boston diners. Smart, choosy, brave.
What’s the most overdone trend right now? Food trucks. I don’t think it’s a substitute for other kinds of things where the chef or preparer has more space and the opportunity to make sure food is a little fresher.
What are you reading? “All the Light We Cannot See.” It’s my second time reading it. It’s an amazing book. I also like reading autobiographies of women. I just finished the second part of Anjelica Huston’s book.
How’s your commute? I walk to work, which is really nice. It’s a 1.4-mile walk. If I didn’t do that walk every day, I would weigh another 30 pounds.
What’s the one food you never want to eat again? There are very few things I don’t like. I only wish I didn’t love food as much as I do. The one thing I don’t eat — and everyone else in my house adores it — is peanut butter.
What kind of restaurant is Boston missing right now? My son is heading to Sydney next semester, and we don’t really have food you’d find more typically in Australia or New Zealand.
‘We need to continually push toward more locally grown food. I think we’re seeing improvement, but there’s a long way to go.’
What’s your most missed Boston restaurant? Hamersley’s is an obvious one. The food was so good, and the atmosphere was so nice. It was just a lovely way to spend an evening.
Who was your most memorable customer? We have a harvest party every year. We had a supermarket sweepstakes, and a woman named Rachel Greenberger was a winner. In the middle of the party, she was running through, loading up her cart. There are some fabulous pictures of her. She had the most amazing time and the most fun doing it.
If you had to eat your last meal in Boston, what would it be? Sitting at one of our farm tables with an eight-course meal from Red’s Best, Inna’s Kitchen, and all of my go-to lunch places. That’s heaven, lots of wonderful tastes, like a small-plate restaurant in the market.Kara Baskin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.