May 26th, 2021

She Built a Baltimore Restaurant Empire, but Still Works the Stove

Originally published in The New York Times

May 25, 2021

BALTIMORE — In July of 1999, Cindy Wolf cooked lunch for Julia Child at Charleston, her restaurant on the city’s downtown waterfront. At the end of a five-course meal that included fried oysters with cayenne-lemon mayonnaise and pan-seared sweetbreads, Ms. Wolf went out to the dining room to meet the cooking legend.

“Why haven’t I heard of you?” Child asked.

Ms. Wolf’s obscurity was understandable. She was then just 33, and Charleston was less than two years old, tucked away in an underdeveloped part of a city that had virtually no reputation for fine dining. “I love living in Baltimore,” Ms. Wolf said. “But let’s be honest — food people don’t think this is a sexy place to visit.”

No one has done more to change that perception than Ms. Wolf and Tony Foreman, her business partner and former husband. They own six restaurants in Baltimore, with another, the Milton Inn, due to open in a suburb later this year. The executive chefs at all of her restaurants have cooked at Charleston, and she mentored all of them from a young age.