A life that has included stints as an actor, a Harvard doctoral student, a house painter (Ava Gardner’s bedroom being the crowning achievement of that era), NYC cabbie, and a crisis counselor, coalesced nicely into a job in restaurant management and development in 1987. Working on a dissertation, apparently retired from restaurant life, Myers met a girlfriend for lunch at Michela’s restaurant in Cambridge, MA. “I was so taken with the place that I never left,” he says. “I really can’t say the same for the girlfriend.”
Myers has been in the business of fine dining for over 30 years. The opening of Myers+Chang with fiancée Joanne Chang marks his fifth restaurant in Boston. He opened Radius in downtown Boston with partners Esti Parsons and Michael Schlow in1999. Considered one of Boston’s best restaurants, Radius opened to critical acclaim and continues to receive the highest distinctions from prestigious institutions and publications including the James Beard Foundation, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Esquire, Wine Spectator, Sante, and Fast Company. In 2006, Radius received four stars by The Boston Globe, a rating bestowed by the publication only twice in the last 10 years. Prior to Radius, Myers was a partner at Rialto in Cambridge, MA, the other 4-Star restaurant that he designed, developed, and managed in 1995 with Chef Jody Adams.
Myers opened Via Matta in June of 2002. Since then Via Matta has achieved countless accolades such as the Esquire’s “Best New Restaurant” and was named “One of America’s Best Restaurants” by Gourmet Magazine. In 2003, Myers opened Great Bay at the Hotel Commonwealth in Kenmore Square. Great Bay, like both Radius and Via Matta, has achieved top praise in Esquire, The New York Times, Gourmet, and was awarded “Best Seafood Restaurant” by Boston Magazine upon opening.
Myers restaurant education began in upscale, glitterati stops in Los Angeles such as Charmer’s Market and Michael’s in Santa Monica. He moved on to Strattons’s Westwood Village before relocating back to New York and working for three years with Chef John Clancy “in the Village”—there was only one back then.
Myers’s opinions on food, wine and business have been seen in Time, Inc., Business Week, The Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Sante, Playboy, Food and Wine, Restaurant Hospitality, and Restaurants and Institutions.
Myers involves himself in many local and national charities and is actively involved in Lovin’ Spoonfuls, The Boys and Girls Clubs, Big Sister, Big Brother, The Anthony Spinazzola Foundation, Room to Grow, The Pine Street Inn, and Community Servings.
Q: What appealed to you about Lovin’ Spoonfuls?
A: Twofold answer; but both folds are pretty easy to unfold. I get solicited more than most because of being involved in a high profile industry. 3-5 times a day someone is ringing your doorbell, calling you, emailing you, and asking for support for everything from cancer research to children’s groups to private schools… Still find that last one confusing, but that’s for another time. At the end of the day, you can’t get involved with everything. So, you have to choose- you have to align yourself with something that resonates on a personal level; for me, Lovin’ Spoonfuls was a natural & easy fit. I grew up poor. Then I got into the restaurant business at a pretty early age. The combination of growing up with need and then segueing into an industry that not only creates an inordinate amount of waste, but mostly caters to the fortunate is interesting. Watching perfectly good, often delicious, food thrown away with an awareness of childhood hunger? Lovin’ Spoonfuls is a godsend. Almost daily, for 30 years, you ask yourself, when is this going to be taken care of? And by whom? And why not me? Never answered that last one. Thankfully Ashley did.
After you make the decision of what stripe of involvement, then, inevitably, you have to choose a person with whom to get involved. That’s not always as easy as you might think. Everyone has a schtick; everyone’s selling something. But if that “something” is actually something you need in your life, then no sales technique is required. Ashley knew enough to just tell me about it; and I was done. Her awareness of the issues, without any bravura, or pitch, made it very easy. I was charmed with her passion, integrity, her grit, the first time we ever talked about LS. In this case, the appeal was obvious: the it and the who.
Q: So you’ve been working in the restaurant business for 175 years. How has your involvement with ‘Spoonfuls affected your outlook on food and hunger in Boston?
A: Well, I’ve always been pretty passionate about Community Servings, The Pine Street Inn, Rosies’s Place, etc, so my outlook hasn’t changed. There’s need, there’s hunger- then there are solutions. But not enough of them. LS is one of many solutions. But it’s one that has made me more comfortable on the planet; more sure of how I can be more involved and what we can do in our industry to clean up after ourselves and to make sure that we’re giving back to community in every way possible. Lovin’ Spoonfuls makes it so ridiculously easy for my industry to make contributions NOW. Open your back door and there’s this bright, clean, refrigerated truck ready to take your perishables to someone who needs them. My outlook? I’m optimistic.
Q: How did you know you wanted to feed people for a living?
A: It’s odd how careers choose us and not otherwise. I think I have a naturally contrary nature. I’ve always loved to rub against the grain. Take my college curriculum: I was a doctoral student in literature. I planned on reading for a living. Yet, I grew up in a household where reading, honestly, was regarded as a waste of time; a petty bourgeoise recreation… my father grew up in the depression, a foster child, farmed out as cheap labor. His childhood was rather bleak; poor, a series of foster homes; few educational opportunities; it must have sucked, but he turned around (as many can) and threw that at his own family. To this day, I’m not even sure I like to read! I was just certain that I wasn’t going to be told not to read. So… What is the other direction I sought in life? Feeding people for a living. I grew up in a home with rarely enough food to feed 8 kids. We didn’t go out to restaurants much, believe me. Go figure. I just wish someone had told me over and over that I couldn’t play centerfield for the Red Sox.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about owning restaurants?
A: Without a doubt it’s the staff, the personnel, the subset of our culture that makes restaurants living, breathing organisms. The subterraneans. Whether it’s the ladies and gentlemen from Guatemala to Shanghai that make up the kitchen and back-waiting staffs, or the college and art school kids that comprise the theatrical service staff, or the artisans from culinary school that bring pride and a direction to the entire enterprise. No doubt, that’s why I do it. It’s a privilege giving young people a place to work, to find themselves, to pursue any and all interests. I love being around restaurant types. To say that we’re kindred spirits would be an understatement.
Q: Favorite thing on the menu at M+C?
A: Right now? Changes daily. Today it’s the tamarind glazed local haddock with vietnamese jicama, mint, and grapefruit salad; but that’ll change in a few minutes.
Q: What do you want to tell people about ‘Spoonfuls?
A: I think it’s vital for the restaurant, catering, and food service supply industries to know that Lovin’ Spoonfuls is here for US, for OUR industry; it allows us to contribute without lifting a finger. It really doesn’t get much more brainless and effortless than that. I said it earlier, it’s a godsend. For those of us too busy to come up with a solution on our own, and more importantly, for those living each day in hunger, its a mitzvah.