Chef Jody Adams of Rialto - Biography

Cambridge, MA


Jody Adams' passion for food began at her family's dinner table. Her mother relied on traditional New England staples during the holidays, and would prepare souffl├ęs, curries, and gnocchi for special occasions. But it wasn't until she was a college student at Brown University that Adam’s interest in food took a professional turn. A part time job with food writer and teacher Nancy Verde Barr made her realize that she much happier in Barr's kitchen than in anthropology class.

In 1983 Adams began her culinary career in Boston at Seasons Restaurant under Chef Lydia Shire. Just three years later she became Chef Gordon Hamersley’s opening sous chef at Hamersley's Bistro. Adams moved to Michela's in 1990, where she was executive chef until 1994. While at Michela’s, Adams developed her reputation for carefully-researched regional menus that combined New England ingredients with Italian culinary traditions. In 1993 Food & Wine Magazine named Adams “one of America’s ten best new chefs.”

With just 10 years in the business, Adams set off on her own in September 1994 to open Rialto in Cambridge’s Harvard Square. Just four months after opening, The Boston Globe awarded Rialto four stars, the newspaper's highest rating. And in 1997 Adams received the James Beard Foundation Perrier-Jouet Best Chef Award, Northeast.

In an effort to connect her staff to the farmers and artisan producers that supply the restaurant, Adams launched an internal educational program, Guerilla Grilling, in 2008. As a team, Rialto’s Guerilla Grillers have visited local vegetable farms, cheese producers, an oyster farm, and even a chocolate factory. Outside of the restaurant, Adams is actively involved in organizations that support children’s advocacy and hunger relief both domestically and internationally, including The Greater Boston Food Bank, Share Our Strength, and Partners in Health.

In addition to running Rialto, in 2002 Adams published In the Hands of a Chef: Cooking with Jody Adams of Rialto Restaurant, a cookbook she co-wrote with her husband, Ken Rivard. And in January 2007, Adams bought out her partners, became the sole owner of Rialto, and completely renovated the restaurant. The Boston Globe awarded the renovated Rialto four stars once again, Esquire Magazine named Rialto one of the best restaurants in the country in 2007, and Mobile Travel Guides awarded the restaurant four stars.

Most recently, Adams was a contestant on the second season of Top Chef Masters, where she prevailed through cooking challenges like offsite wedding wars, preparing a meal for Lisa Simpson, and feeding the cast and crew of the television show "Modern Family."