Sherry Hughes: Chef + Kitchen Manager, Women's Lunch Place of Greater Boston

Photo by Michael Piazza

A recent breakfast at the Women’s Lunch Place: eggs in a hash brown nest and fresh fruit. For lunch: chicken and vegetable pot pies, and vanilla pudding topped with caramelized pineapple. Sherry Hughes often needs to make last-minute changes thanks to unexpected but welcome donations, like that week’s vanilla bean from Lovin’ Spoonfuls. “I feel like I’m on ‘Chopped,’” she jokes.

And she wouldn’t have it any other way, directing 300 healthy and hearty meals—including her mother’s pozole stew recipe on occasion, a favorite among the women, and drawing from an outside herb garden—and managing 15–20 volunteer cooks every day at the Newbury Street day shelter serving homeless women.

It’s an unexpected dream gig for Sherry, who switched gears six years ago when she was laid off from her newspaper job of nearly two decades. Drawing on her previous experience in the food industry and home cooking, she entered culinary school at 54 and landed jobs cooking in large volume—first at a rehab and nursing facility and then a retirement community—before stepping into a temporary kitchen manager job at Community Servings. When the Women’s Lunch Place job opened up, she jumped at the opportunity.

Under her watch at WLP, breakfast transitioned from a buffet to a plated meal, in line with its mission to treat all women with dignity. She also launched an internship program with Community Servings and hopes to start a culinary program for the women. Grateful for her serendipitous career turn, Sherry says: “I think this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

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This story appeared in the Winter 2019 issue.

Lesley Mahoney is a South Dartmouth-based writer, editor and content strategist who loves a new food find, whether at a farmers market, restaurant or local purveyor. She can be reached at lesleyoconnell2@gmail.com.