The third time, it was the cook who came to the table. The waiter couldn’t face us anymore.
“Sorry, we’re out of meatloaf,” she said, her gray hair held back by maybe a dozen pins. She showed pity to her waiter as he is also one of her 18 grandchildren.
Chain cook Molly Ruppert is 84.
And in an extraordinary act of love for her family, a determination to make all her dreams come true, and an utter inability to sit still, she and her husband last year opened a restaurant in Deale, Maryland, on the shore. west of the Chesapeake Bay. is composed almost entirely of generations of their descendants.
“We start with the youngest in the morning, they come in and set the tables, set everything up,” said Jim Lober, a civil engineer who married into a weekend job who tends the bar and does the interview.
“Then the older ones come in, and it’s the waiters, the cooks.”
Caroline Lober, 12, graduated from the team late this summer.
“I’m on the fryer. Chicken, zucchini fritters and fries,” she explained. When she returns to school next week, she will have one of the biggest funds in eighth grade. “This part is nice.”
The part she hates? “It smells like a fryer,” she says. She does not wants to go into catering when she grows up.
At least this summer, she was relieved of her “mess” duties. Now a younger cousin is the one who has to “clean up all the mess no matter who made it”.
Grandchildren get the valuable lessons that a gig in the restaurant business reliably provides: courage, stamina, multitasking, and interacting with the audience.
And their teachers don’t just worship grandparents with a crazy idea. They are kind of a big deal.
How a mother-son duo shaped Washington’s art and food scenes
“How a mother-son duo shaped Washington’s arts and food scenes,” reads the headline of a Washington Post magazine article.
Molly and her son Paul Ruppert were at the forefront of DC’s current culinary and artistic flourishing in the 1990s – opening a “foodie” restaurant, creating avant-garde theaters and art exhibitions pop-ups that launched many careers. The chef they hired was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New American Chefs in 1997.
“And he supported everything,” Molly said, teasing her husband, Raymond “Cappy” Ruppert, who clarified that he’s still 85 and won’t be 86 until next week.
Cappy — a name he inherited from his family as a child, but one that suited him well as captain of their little weekend boat on the Chesapeake — has always run businesses in DC
The Washington Historical Society honored the Rupperts as Washington’s legacy family, honoring six generations of Ruppert influence in the city, beginning with Henry Ruppert’s emigration from Germany to DC in 1856.
One of Henry’s sons, Frank, opened a hardware store in the 1000 Seventh Street NW block in 1889. This later became a property management company in 1936, where Paul and Cappy worked for years.
“Then she took me upstairs,” Cappy said, pushing Molly away, explaining that he moved the real estate business upstairs so Molly and Paul could open this restaurant.
Molly got married there, but her family was born in Brookland, fourth generation.
When it came time to leave the DC businesses and life in the city – they finally sold the Seventh Street property after 120 years – they did not retire quietly to the small Chesapeake Bay home where their children ran barefoot, learned to catch crabs, and coaxed their 20-foot wanderer.
Every time they went up Rockhold Creek, they saw the remains of the old crab shack that had been there years ago, but had crumbled, piece by piece, into the water.
“We know a lot of people were saying, ‘Somebody’s gonna pull this restaurant out of the depths,'” Molly said, during a lunch-dinner break on the last day of the season. ” Why not us ?
When I first met her – the meatloaf night in June – and she told me a bit of her story, my mouth dropped open thinking of the quiet life my mother of 76 years prefer.
“I can’t stop,” she said. “I’m bored. I can’t sit still.
Did any of the kids try to stop him?
Meet two amazing women who are still working at 102. Yes, 102 years old.
“They may have said something to each other, but not to us,” she said. “And my parents died, so no one told me it was a stupid idea.”
So they bought the property, then spent three years developing and zoning purgatory to make their dream come true.
It’s a sleek, modern place, with plenty of boat docks and ample deck seating. Instead of the crispy fishnets and plastic shellfish that haunt too many seafood joints, it’s bright and airy with huge works of art that Molly loves to talk about.
She keeps the menu tight. They are known for the big crabs they get from a local crabber, the meatloaf, summer salads like beets and corn, and Molly’s crazy fried chicken. “It’s kind of a complex recipe,” Cappy explained.
Cappy is at the bar, skilled in all the drinks he has learned to serve.
Nora Lober is an engineer most of the year. But during the summer, she, her husband Jim and their children work at Cappy.
“Nora won’t talk to you,” Molly said. “But she really runs the place.”
They haven’t made any money yet, in the two seasons they’ve been open. But they’re okay with it, they’ve planned it.
“We’re only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Molly explained with a laugh. “Because we need the other four days to recover.”
And Sunday was their last open day this year. Some of the staff are off to college, others have sports, rehearsals and homework eating up their weekends.
This is one of the problems, when the staff is family. And that explained that funny first weekend of June when we met the waiter who couldn’t take it anymore to serve another “no” at our table.
“It’s our first weekend. We had to open later this summer because of all the graduations,” Molly told us that day. “And we’re just not there yet.”
They fixed those opening weekend issues, we learned on a return visit in August. The grandsons working the floor were all skilled and confident, dashing between tables with plates of food and refills of drinks.
Molly didn’t like closing for the season on Labor Day weekend, but hopes that next year they can add distant cousins, or maybe non-Rupperts to work so that can stay open all year round.
She wanted to make Monday their last. But the little union that is his offspring has rebelled.
“They said, ‘We want a fun day, come on! ” she says.
So she agreed to their demands and they got Labor Day, after signaling the end of summer with a family bonfire on the shore of the bay.