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Award-winning chef Jody Adams ramps up for new challenge, mentors next generation

Change Makers: Award-winning chef Jody Adams
Change Makers: Award-winning chef Jody Adams 04:42

BOSTON - Award-winning chef Jody Adams is savoring the moment. Four years after COVID crippled the restaurant industry, she, and her partners in A Street Hospitality-Eric Papachristos and Jon Mendez--are getting ready to open a new restaurant at Raffles Boston in the Back Bay.

Although the two-story La Padrona space looks like a typical construction site right now, renderings promise a gorgeous, meticulously planned restaurant from the first-floor bar to the dining room upstairs. On a tour of the space, Eric describes the design elements and themes. The bar on the ground floor will evoke an Italian villa. Comfortable and welcoming, the space will include vintage furniture and warm white walls. After ascending a stunning "floating" staircase, guests will experience a second-floor dining room inspired by Italian cinema-plush, dark, and textural. There's great anticipation ahead of the mid-to-late April opening.

"This is the engine of the restaurant," Eric explains moving toward the kitchen. Jody Adams stands in that "engine," grateful for the luxury of focusing on the dishes that will be created here and the people who will make them. "I'm part of the whole thing but I don't have to worry whether the pipe is in the wrong place in the new building under construction. That's not what I'm paying attention to right now," Adams said. "I'm paying attention to whether the kitchen line is the way we want it to be and whether the breadsticks are turning out the way we want them to."

Jody Adams
Chef Jody Adams CBS Boston

At a time when many chefs (and professionals in any field) with Jody's longevity are scaling back or retiring, she is diving into a new adventure. Her own hotel restaurant, Rialto closed after 22 years in 2016. An institution at the Charles Hotel, Rialto welcomed locals and visitors alike. Jody and her food were the draw. The excitement of a 24/7 hotel environment excites her. "I'm not looking for an offramp," she says smiling. "This profession that I have found-found for myself so many years ago-has given so much back to me and now giving me these partners in Jon and Eric. We are on another part of the journey into a new time."

Part of what defines this stage of the journey is Jody's drive to support the professional growth of their staff. La Padrona's Executive Chief Amarylis Colon never thought she would be at the helm in a kitchen so quickly. She pivoted to a career in the kitchen seven years ago. That "big risk" is reaping great rewards. "Jody is a great mentor. She is giving me lots of opportunities," Amarylis said, looking around a kitchen built specifically for the menu they're creating. Asked what she hopes to learn from Jody, Amarylis points to Jody's investment in the community-relationships the James Beard "Best Chefs" winner has cultivated over decades.

For Jody, training and mentoring the next generation of Boston chefs is its own reward. "Watching them grow with respect to their culinary expertise. Watching their enthusiasm and passion and also watch them grow as managers and mentors themselves," she said.

She says the company will grow through the development of its people. That generosity of spirit infuses her charitable efforts. "She supports every philanthropy that she can. And with all the demands on her time, that's saying a lot," Jon says, who describes her as the "beating heart" of the trio.

A lover of travel, Jody has worked with culinary teams in Haiti, Rwanda and elsewhere with the international non-profit Partners in Health. She regularly hosts fundraisers for anti-hunger organizations like Share Our Strength and the Greater Boston Food Bank. She (and Eric and Jon) are 14-year Pan-Mass Challenge riders whose TEAM TRADE has raised more than a million dollars. An avid cyclist, Jody draws energy from regular rides. She also recently took up indoor rock climbing. "I'm stretching in ways that isn't just being in the restaurant which enhances and keeps my interest and energy in the restaurant as well," she said.

To those working in restaurants-and elsewhere--Jody offers this advice: advocate for yourself, do the things that scare you, and be generous.

"You have to be generous and giving," Jody explains. "I think that part of the reason I've had the opportunities I've had is not because I've been demanding but because I've been generous. I think generosity in life is critical to being happy and satisfied."

There's great anticipation ahead of her next restaurant opening. Three years after the first meeting about the La Padrona space, they hope to open in mid-to-late April.   

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