(Re)Connect with Your Passion to Stay on the Right Path

October 2016

Photo: OpenTable.com

Photo: OpenTable.com

We’ve all done it at some point in our adult lives—veered off in the wrong direction in either personal or business matters. Whether you’re reassessing a relationship, developing a marketing strategy for your company, or searching for a job, it’s wise to be aware of your passion and stay aligned with it. The work you do with your heart at the core will be the most gratifying and likely lead you to prosperity.

At this year’s Center for Women & Enterprise (CWE) conference, keynote speaker Barbara Lynch, founder and CEO of Barbara Lynch Gruppo, a $24 million company employing more than 200 employees focused on high-concept restaurants and food businesses, dished out perfectly seasoned advice to allay hesitation and push ahead in life when faced with challenges: “To this day, I do shit I don’t know what I’m doing. But you’ve got to get beyond the fear.”

Lynch, the child of South Boston’s tough public housing neighborhoods and sans a high school diploma, proudly stated that she is the sole female Relais & Châteaux grand chef in North America. That recognition is accompanied by a host of other accolades: James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Restaurateur; Food & Wine’s “Ten Best New Chefs in America” award; named “Top 25 New Restaurants in America” by Bon Appétit and “Best New Restaurant” by Food & Wine; and the Amelia Earhart Award.

Despite all Lynch had stacked against her, she was very fortunate because she realized her passion at a young age—“make people happy by serving good food.” To fulfill her passion, she spent years learning by observing—from her first kitchen job in a church rectory to tutelage under top Boston chefs. Lynch then focused on establishing her own business by first determining what she believed Boston needed in the restaurant space. Her mission was to educate customers and team members, and not allow any feelings of intimidation in the restaurant experience. This formula of passion, fulfilling marketplace needs and a defined mission, led to many of her concept restaurants, food businesses and foundation.

She approached investors and banks with her business plan complete with check averages. There were many challenges along the way to Lynch’s success, but she said, “I believed in myself for so long…it’s the only way I’m going to survive.” To overcome the fear of failure she encouraged the attendees by advising, “If you really want something, you can talk yourself out of being scared.” Her innate grit guided her over hurdles stating, “When someone tells me ‘No,’ it makes me that much more determined.” And when asked if it was difficult to succeed in a male-dominated industry, she laughed and said, “My nickname was Knuckles Lynch.”

Lynch spoke about the team she surrounds herself with and how important it is that they share the same passion—to make people happy by serving good food. She’s relied on many of the same team members long-term and said, “If you can’t delegate, you’re never going to grow.” One of her driving forces was her commitment to expand her business for her team. She underscored the importance of building the right company culture…making sure all are aligned with the company’s values, and the importance of having everyone work smarter, not harder.

Lynch said she was able to build on her experience and take her company beyond expected limits. By staying true to her passion, values and mission throughout her professional journey, and assessing her successes, she was able to say in conclusion, “I’m so happy to be Barbara Lynch.”

—Maureen

Side notes for foodies: At home, Lynch says she limits parties to eight and keeps the menu simple. She’s not a fan of trends and called over-the-top plating “food porn.” When asked when she might appear on the popular TV show, Chopped, she quipped, “No. How about a show that teaches you how to cook instead of judging how you cook?”