"You know I always think that there are better chefs than me. I have my own style, I do things the way I like, I eat the way I like, I do put butter on my steak. I worry a lot about what young parents now are teaching their children about food. I worry that a younger generation is trying to make food into a villain."
She said that with success comes pressure. It's a lesson Shire has tried to impart to her youngest son, Alex, a chef who works at Scampo.
"I've actually tried to tell my -- teach my son that every day," Shire said. "If you don't have a pit in your stomach almost every day, it means you're relaxing too much. You know, how can you stay in that tip-top form, shape, without that little pit in your stomach? I think it's important. It think it's -- you know they'll be a day way off when I -- I guess I'll retire when my son's able to take over. ... But right now, I work hard."
Shire's love of food has opened doors in all areas of her life. It was over food, for example, that Shire became friends with Julia Child.
"Julia Child was a very good friend of mine," Shire said. "When I was the chef at Maison Robert, she used to come in there for dinner. ...and -- all of a sudden one day I was in the kitchen, and the telephone rang, and it was Julia on the other end. And she said, 'Lydia, would you like to come over to lunch tomorrow?' And I'm telling you my knees were shaking, I almost fell apart right there, and of course I said, 'Well of course I will!' So I did, and I went to her home the next day for lunch. Talk about a pit in your stomach. That was a little scary," she said.
Shire said that Child made a Roquefort tart, but revealed that the chef's real mission was networking.
"She -- this young girl wanted to get in the business and here was Julia simply trying to put two people together. And that was to me, was the beauty of Julia. It was never about herself. It was about how she could make things better for other people. She was a true -- she was a true networker. But way back, before that word even came into being.
"And then after that we you know became very close. ... Just before she died, she asked me if I would go to London with her on the QE2 and, because she called me and she said, 'Lydia, I want to eat oysters at Harrods at the oyster bar and drink Sancerre.' And once again, you don't say no to Julia Child. So I was off on the ship and we had a great time. ... She lived life right up to the end."
We asked Shire about the irony of her having a pit in her stomach meeting Julia Child, when young women who want to meet her now must have the same pit.
"I guess I just don't -- well, growing up I was very shy," Shire said. "I don't have grandiose thoughts about myself. I just simply am a little shy girl from Brookline trying to do well in America. That's kind of it."