BAKE!, Bakehouse

Poulet au Pain & Crank Calling Julia Child: Barbara Lynch Wows at BAKE!

Barbara Lynch and her restaurant group’s Executive Chef Michelle Carter

We teach hundreds of classes every year at BAKE!, but there’s no denying it: it’s really exciting when a big-time chef comes around. Our latest culinary star visitor was Barbara Lynch, the Boston-based chef who owns Barbara Lynch Gruppo, an eight-restaurant empire. She’s also a James Beard Award winner and the only American woman to hold the title of Grand Chef Relais & Chateau. She’s got a full plate.

While introducing Barbara at her recent BAKE! cooking demo (she also cooked a special fish dinner at the Roadhouse!), Bakehouse managing partner Amy Emberling remarked, “You must have more energy than I can possibly imagine!” The chef’s response was a simple, “Yeah.”

Tomato Tarte Tatin

Barbara’s no-nonsense attitude—and great memory—is part of what made her class so fantastic. As she demoed some of her signature dishes, she regaled us with some seriously cool stories (some of which appear in her new memoir Out of Line), including meeting Julia Child while playing hooky in high school and then later crank calling the beloved chef (it wasn’t intentional—she just got too scared when Child answered). The two eventually connected in a meaningful way once Barbara started cooking professionally. She even got to eat chocolate cake with her idol, a memory she really treasures.

One of the most fascinating things we learned during the class, which started with delicious bite-sized Tomato Tarte Tatin, was that Barbara, who is renowned worldwide, is a actually self-trained chef. “I read a lot of cookbooks,” she told us, citing Alain Ducass as an early influence. “I have no college, no business background.” She does admit to having a thriving bookie business for a while, though.

Slicing into the Poulet au Pain

Her Poulet au Pain was the most memorable dish of the day. Quite simple a whole chicken wrapped and baked in bread dough. Fresh rosemary livens up the flavor. Michelle Carter, the Executive Chef of Barbara Lynch Gruppo, sliced into the golden brown bread to reveal juicy chicken and a fragrant mirepoix, a sauteed medley of carrots, onions and celery. While demonstrating her process, Barbara broke off a piece of the dough to allow us to see that it, in fact, was a bread dough rather than a difficult pastry dough. She encouraged any intimidated would-be home cooks that overworking the dough isn’t an issue.

Creamy Vanilla Bread Pudding

Barbara finished the class with her Creamy Vanilla Bread Pudding, which is a Lynch family favorite as well as a signature dish at her restaurant No 9 Park. Barbara advised us to double the vanilla in this and all recipes and admitted that she doesn’t particularly enjoy baking. “I hate the feel of sugar on my hands,” she told us.

When one audience member marveled at how delicious and seemingly simple the recipe was, Barbara summed up her take on home cooking. “I want to take the mystery out of cooking because it shouldn’t be hard,” she said, explaining that she does her best to simplify the process for the everyday kitchen. “Why would you want to cook like a chef at home?”

Sounds fun, right? Want to take a class at BAKE? Check out the schedule! Want to meet other great chefs like Barbara? Sign up for the BAKE! enews to keep up with special appearances.