Growing Up At Duke’s

A guest post by Amy Waeschle

Because my last name isn’t Moscrip anymore, not a lot of people know that I’m Duke’s daughter. My picture is on the wall of his restaurants, so when I’m there people sometimes put it together, but for the most part, I live outside of his and my brother’s world.

I secretly enjoy this.

As a kid, it felt like everyone knew me. This had advantages, such as a slight preferential treatment from teachers. It definitely helped me get the service jobs I slogged through in my teens and twenties. But it also meant that I couldn’t get away with anything. Nowadays, people usually find out by accident, after they’ve gotten to know me.

When a person discovers that my dad is Duke, they inevitably ask: “Is he a chef?” I’ve never considered my dad a chef, the kind who wears the tall puffy hat and lights fancy types of food on fire. No. My dad is more of a flavor chemist. He approaches cooking by asking himself, “what would happen if…” or (this is one of my favorites), “I had a dream last night about peanut butter and chicken.”

My dad is a supertaster. Yes, it’s really a thing. He can taste nuances in food that I don’t even notice, and certain combinations of foods or flavors light up his palate like a Fourth of July. It’s the reason he doesn’t like coffee—too bitter, or why he’s not a cookie guy—most are too sweet, or why he’s not a fan of sushi. I’m sure that’s why people rave about the food at Duke’s; every recipe has been tweaked for maximum flavor.

Growing up, we spent a lot of time at Duke’s. It makes sense, after all, he created Duke’s because he wanted a place where people would always feel welcomed, where they could relax, enjoy good food, a place not stuffy or confining. I remember stopping in for a bite after or in between basketball practice, the golf course, a swim meet, or sometimes we stopped in on our way back from skiing. One time, my dad was still clad in his turtleneck and ski bibs (hey, it was the 80s) when we arrived at the front door of the old Duke’s Bellevue. “You’re gonna wear your ski clothes?” I asked, surprised they’d let him in the door in such a slummy getup. His eyes twinkled. “Why not?” he said to me as we stepped inside.

Sure enough, not one of the staff batted an eye (I’m sure I rolled mine, though).

Sometimes I hated going to the restaurant because everyone wanted to talk to him: customers, wait staff, his managers. If there was a problem that needed his attention, he’d be gone in a flash, leaving me and my brother to play with the sugar packets and try to savor our Shirley Temples. Or he would recognize a customer and would get mired in some tedious chat about one of his crazy schemes, or about golf, the Sonics, etc. I remember being whiny and rude sometimes just so that he’d be forced to abandon his guest and pay attention to us.

One thing I’m grateful for is because he was his own boss, he could change his schedule to attend my games, coach my teams, or just hang out. I always knew that I could count on him to be there for me—never once did work have priority over my brother or me. It took me a long time before I realized the rarity of this gift.

But I certainly didn’t desire to follow in my dad’s footsteps. Or aspire to own my own business. It was too risky for me, and too consuming. I didn’t want to get a call in the middle of the night that a pipe broke and was flooding my business, or have to invest thousands of dollars with no guarantee of its return.

I also didn’t marry a person in the restaurant business. I married a firefighter who loves to cook. And eat. Fortunately, he loves Duke food as much as I do.

We live in the Seattle area, but not close enough so that we get to the restaurants often. So when we do get to eat at Duke’s, now with our two kids, it’s a special treat. Almost always, my dad and his wife, Cybele, drop everything and meet us. We order old favorites or the specials, all with the understanding that we’ll share—and let me tell you, forks fly!

That’s one of the best perks about having Duke as my dad. Food has always brought us together, and always will.

Bio: Amy Waeschle is a writer and the author of Going Over the Falls and Chasing Waves. Contact her at amywaeschle.com

October 17, 2017

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