Food & dining

Getting Salty

Getting Salty with Share Our Strength’s Emily Ryan

Emily Ryan is Share Our Strength’s New England director of development.
Emily Ryan
Emily Ryan is Share Our Strength’s New England director of development.

Share Our Strength holds its 30th annual Taste of the Nation fund-raiser in Boston on June 5, with more than 60 restaurants serving food and drinks to benefit their No Kid Hungry campaign. The organization provides school breakfasts, summer and afterschool meals, and other services to kids in need. This year, a couple will even get married at the reception — and bought tickets for 80 of their friends. Share Our Strength’s New England director of development, Emily Ryan, helps spearhead the soiree.

What’s the first restaurant you ever ate at in Boston? I grew up in Waltham and we’d go to Chadwick’s. I’d get the “Belly Buster” as a kid. That’s my earliest memory.

What’s one thing you’d like to fix about the restaurant industry here? I’d love to see more strong female chef-owners. We have great ones in Karen Akunowicz and Joanne Chang and Mary Dumont, but you see the same ones over and over. We need to make more room for that.


How has the restaurant landscape changed since you arrived in Boston? I’m by no means an expert on this, but I’ve noticed a desire for really, really good food in a casual setting. [Michael] Scelfo at Waypoint and Matt [Jennings] at Townsman are putting out James Beard-quality food but not at a white linen tablecloth.

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What other restaurants do you visit? My husband and I are in a deep depression with The Maiden closing. We’re a bit crushed by that. We go to Bar Mezzana and Myers + Chang. My husband travels quite a bit, so we try to stay fairly local. We’re excited to see what goes into The Maiden spot.

What’s your earliest food memory that made you think: I want to work in restaurants? My mother’s mother was a fantastic cook. She used to make an awesome rum cake. A whole bottle of rum would be in it! That was my first thinking about food, which has drawn me to working on the anti-hunger side of things. I think everyone deserves a good meal.

What’s the worst restaurant experience you’ve ever had? I have celiac disease. Any terrible experience I have is when I have something that’s not gluten-free — or almost worse is when a server seems super-annoyed to have to deal with it. In New York this week, I went to dinner with a friend. [The server said], “Oh, yeah, I know what gluten is, but you can have flour tortillas!” Um. You don’t know what gluten is! That was terrible. Then I was nervous to eat, and I’ve been sick all week. It kills the whole experience.

How could Boston become a better food city? I wish that, with all the new developments, there were smaller restaurants opening. You can’t create a homey atmosphere in a 10,000-square-foot restaurant. . . . That’s why we loved The Maiden so much. You go in there, and you know all of the staff. The bigger we build restaurants, the further we get from that intimate experience.


Name three adjectives for Boston diners. Philanthropic, loyal, tough.

What’s the most overdone trend right now? Unicorn sprinkles. Everything unicorn and rainbow — I just don’t need that in my food. And a doughnut within a bagel — on the bakery side, trying to make everything so complicated. I enjoy a really simple meal. To me, food should be delicious and beautiful and doesn’t have to be complicated and fancy.

What are you reading? I’m reading an awesome book called “That Good Night” by Richard Probert, about an 84-year-old who escapes from a nursing home and wants to spend his days sailing on the sea until he dies. It’s so good.

How’s your commute? My commute is fantastic. I mostly work from home. We also have an office in Southie, and it’s a seven-minute walk.

What’s the one food you never want to eat again? I hate asparagus with a passion. I don’t even want to look at it. I hate it.


What kind of restaurant is Boston missing right now? It goes back to that general concept of neighborhood spots. At The Maiden, we felt like family, and I think that trend is dying a little bit.

What’s your most missed Boston restaurant? I miss The Maiden a lot! I miss Rialto, I miss Hamersley’s.

What was your most memorable restaurant interaction? I was in the John Hancock tower when the [Boston Marathon] bombs went off. I was with a group in an apartment. I got to Hamersley’s Bistro, walked in at 6 p.m., and I remember Gordon [Hamersley] hugging me and saying the city would be OK and him feeding me.

If you had to eat your last meal in Boston, what would it be? I’m going to create some enemies with my answer to this! I honestly think that Colin Lynch’s chicken under a brick at Bar Mezzana is one of the best meals I’ve ever had. I’d pick that.

Kara Baskin can be reached at