Living, eating, shopping and being local is what Yelp is all about! Boston’s Leighann F recently caught up with Jody Adams, the executive chef and owner of Harvard Square’s Rialto, for a little chat about her New England background, her Italian influences and what’s best about both of her Boston neighborhoods!
Leighann: So you actually have a degree in anthropology. How did that lead to a culinary career?
Jody: I grew up in an academic family and both of my parents were librarians. We traveled extensively and that provided a lot of exposure to international cuisine. And we didn’t have television, so books and food were a big part of my childhood. When I went to college, I chose anthropology because it fits into everything; music, costumes, dress, culture, food. Throughout college I worked with in catering, cheese buying and as a chef’s assistant. After graduation, I began working as a line cook at Seasons under Lydia Shire.
Leighann: And just under two years ago, you became the sole owner of Rialto. What are learning from this experience?
Jody: In this position, you have to have an opinion on it all. For years, I managed the team in the kitchen, and now I am overseeing all of the elements: the wine program, the waitstaff, the bar and the back of the house. For me, it’s about learning to be an effective leader and mentor.
Leighann: Throughout your career, you’ve received much praise for your creativity. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Jody: I lived in a very Italian neighborhood. We had the most wonderful cheese shops and markets. Shopping here with my family is one of my earliest food experiences. Over the years, I’ve drawn from different regions of Italy, which are influenced by many other cultures, and have matched what that region is known for to what we have here locally. In the Italian culture, you take what’s seasonal and you don’t mess with that, so I’ve tried to convey the Italian cuisine through the eye of a New Englander.
Leighann: So you’re actually a native New Englander from Providence! Where do you spend most of your time these days?
Jody: I split my time between Brookline, my home, and Harvard Square, where I work.
Leighann: And when you finally get to take the apron off, what’s got your attention?
Jody: When I have some free time, I like to relax and read, and I’m an avid bike rider. I’ll ride around my neighborhood and around Jamaica Pond. For an extended ride, I love riding through the Arboretum… it’s especially nice during lilac season.
Leighann: Raised by two librarians, you’re bound to be a good resource for book stores!
Jody: I like to support independent bookstores. The Brookline Booksmith in Washington Square is one one of my favorites. In Harvard, I’d check out The Harvard Bookstore. The Globe is a fantastic bookstore as well.
Leighann: How about your local coffee shop?
Jody: Well there’s Bloc 11, Hi-Rise and Sofra—they have a delicious Turkish breakfast and I’ll try something new there each time I go. I’ve been going to Diesel Cafe
for years now. I took my son there was he was 10 or 11 years old. You
can play pool in the back, and there’s a counter for your computer.
It’s a good place to come and get some focused work done. Oh, and they
have great coffee, tea and food too!
Leighann: Yelpers want to know, where does an executive chef like to eat??
When my children come home from school, we really like cooking as
family, with a nice glass of wine, and enjoying dinner together at home.
Though for lunch, I really like Pomodoro in Brookline. Shiobhan, the owner, is a wonderfully wacky spirit and they really make you feel like you’ve come home. It’s good food and traditional hospitality.
Leighann: You’re also heavily involved in community service and giving back. How would you suggest yelpers get involved in their local efforts?
Jody: Find an organization that personally reaches you, that you share a mission with. Project Bread is a wonderful local organization dedicated to ending hunger in Massachusetts and The Greater Boston Food Bank has many different options, from sorting food to their Kitchen Cabinet program for young professionals.