Lynne Tolley is only the second proprietress in the history of Miss Mary Bobo’s boarding house.
On March 31, the great-grandniece of Jack Daniel will officially step down from her day-to-day responsibilities as the administrator of the legendary Lynchburg eatery. Her last day at Miss Mary Bobo’s will be Feb. 28.
Although she’ll no longer be a daily fixture at the Lynchburg landmark, Tolley will continue her work as a Jack Daniel’s Master Taster and Brand Ambassador, traveling the world on behalf of her famous uncle’s sipping whiskey and the boarding house where he was known to take a noonday meal.
“Growing up in Lynchburg, I knew Miss Mary personally, so I was honored to continue the tradition of fine, boarding house fare and warm Lynchburg hospitality,” said Tolley. “I can’t think of more rewarding work than doing what I love for 30 years.”
Tolley began her career with the Jack Daniel Distillery 34 years ago in April of 1980. She worked in the distillery’s Nashville office until 1983. Following Miss Mary Bobo’s death, just shy of her 102nd birthday, the distillery bought the boarding house and Tolley succeeded Miss Mary as only the second proprietress at the now-famous white homestead.
“We’ll miss Lynne,” said Steve May, director of the Jack Daniel’s Homeplace. “She’s a great Southern lady who has labored long and hard to preserve Southern culture and traditional boarding house food, as well as bring honor to her Uncle Jack’s life’s work.”
In the nearly 30 years since she helped reopen the boarding house restaurant, Tolley has entertained countless guests and celebrities. Tolley and her talents, both culinary and as a Master Taster for Jack Daniel’s, have been featured on television stations across the U.S. and around the world.
Having the honor of hosting a dinner at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City, Tolley is renowned for her work to preserve traditional Southern cooking and for her signature knack of enhancing appropriate dishes with her Uncle Jack’s whiskey.
“We can’t serve a cocktail, but that doesn’t keep us from slipping a little of the hometown product into our food recipes,” said Tolley.
Under her leadership, the more than century-old boarding house restaurant has expanded from four dining rooms able to serve 48 guests a day to nine dining rooms serving 215 guests a day. Tolley’s experience and talent for pairing Jack Daniel’s with food has resulted in four cookbooks.
And her recipe for a hot Jack Daniel’s winter drink featuring apple juice led to the development of Jack Daniel’s Winter Jack Tennessee Cider.
“I love giving people more than just a good Southern home-cooked meal when they visit. I want them to walk away with a taste of our small-town lifestyle and a story they can share,” added Tolley.
Tolley is confident Miss Mary Bobo’s will continue to preserve Southern fare, the culture of the boarding house table and Southern hospitality under the leadership of her two assistants, Debbie Baxter and Fallon Massey. In addition, the boarding house’s tie to the Jack Daniel’s family will also live on. Chris Dickey, head cook at Miss Mary Bobo’s, is also Mr. Jack’s great-grandnephew.