Q&A With Chef Jody AdamsSun Feb 26, 2017
Some women make an impact, others are a force to be reckoned with. Chef Jody Adams is both.
You might not know Chef Jody Adams, but you’ve likely tasted her food. Many of us first fell in love with Jody some years ago while dining at Rialto (when it was at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge), while others got to know her when she opened Trade in the financial district, just steps from B/SPOKE. And like a good friend who never lets you down, Jody gave us even more to love when she opened the Mediterranean-inspired Porto (Back Bay) and Greek restaurant Saloniki (Fenway).
When she’s not in the kitchen, Jody is usually working various children’s advocacy and hunger relief groups, penning her next cookbook, or cycling through the Italian countryside.
We managed to catch up with Jody to learn a little more about how she does it all, and get her tips for living a healthy, balanced life.
You've been an avid cyclist for a while -- tell us how you got into the sport and what motivates you to keep going.
In 2008 I was invited to lead a culinary cycling trip to Sicily. I’d never done anything like it and was nervous about the hills. The hills were indeed steep. I learned that, although I was 51 years old and had been riding a bike since I was a young girl, I had never been taught how to use gears and pedaling speed, effectively. In other words, how to really ride a bike. In the end, I loved it. A year or so later, through a series of fortunate events and generosity, I acquired a spectacular custom road bicycle from Seven Cycles in Watertown. And then I got hooked. I rode it all the time. For many years I’d watched thousands of PMC cyclists, raising money for Dana Farber Cancer Research, ride through Barnstable on Cape Cod the first weekend in August and kept saying I would join them one day. With my Seven, I had no excuses.
2017 will now be my 7th year. I ride for (and with) my sister Eliza who has metastatic breast cancer. We ride with Ginny, the third of the three sisters, and team Porto-Trade. In 6 years our team has raised over half a million dollars. The power of the ride, the community and the huge amount of love is addictive. At the start of every new year my mind turns to training and getting into shape for the PMC in August. It’s an important part of the rhythm of my life and it keeps me focused on what is important, as well as keeping me fit.
We know a healthy diet and exercise are two things to keep a healthy mind. Tell us about your daily routines and/or habits that you're mindful not to break.
My days are anything but routine. Sometimes I stay late into the evening at one of the restaurants and some days I’m up at 6:00am to work in one of the kitchens. So, I think in terms of a weekly rather than a daily routine. That way I don’t beat myself up if I don’t, for instance, get to the gym every morning of the week.. In my week, I incorporate 3 to 4 mornings which start with 20 minutes of yoga and stretching, and then meditation for 20 minutes. If the weather permits, I commute by bike from my house in Dorchester to the restaurants. There are 4 spin classes on my calendar at the gym and one boxing session—sometimes I get to all of them, sometimes I get to none.
In my new life with three restaurants in Boston and one on the edge of Cambridge, I can often get from one to the other with a 20 to 30 minute walk, or a quick bike ride. And sometimes I take the subway, which involves quite a bit of walking. In other words, for me being mindful is paying attention to the process and recognizing that exercise doesn’t have to happen at the gym, it can be part of my daily life. As for diet, I am very fortunate to be able to eat each of my meals in a day at a different restaurant. All of them serve vegetable forward Mediterranean menus so I can count on a healthy meal, as long as I am not tempted by dessert. With all of that said, once the snow melts, I start my PMC training with long rides on the weekend. They’re meditative to me and not a chore.
What is the one recipe you'd suggest everyone learn how to make?
Roasted vegetables. I might also say roasted chicken, but not everyone eats chicken and everyone loves roasted vegetables.
What are your top 3 tips for balancing work and life outside the kitchen?
Balance is never a word I would use to describe my life. Just ask my husband and kids. Because of the restaurants, I was never home at night on most weekends and I worked all the holidays we were open. What I did do was let them know I loved my work but I loved them more. Now that I have some age and wisdom and my kids are grown up, I can say, in an ideal world, the following:
1. Pay attention to the spaces in your day when you are moving between things. Enjoy the walk, engage the person from whom you are buying your lunch, read a really good book on the subway.
2. Take a two week vacation. Not a one week vacation. Nothing will blow up and in fact people will rise up and get stronger. It will also give you critical head space for creativity.
3. Have people over for dinner. I got into this business because I love to cook and share a meal with friends and family. It’s still one of the most relaxing and life affirming things I do.