As the owner of Duke’s Chowder House here in Seattle, I have a lot to be proud of and thankful for. I will be the first to tell you that my family has played the biggest role in the success of my restaurants. A strong thread of their love and support is woven through the fabric of my life and has shaped who I am today as a father, grandfather, and businessman.
I give full credit to my parents for my motivation and drive to succeed. My mother, Ruth, maintained high expectations of me and my older brother Bill. I recall my mother as a tough but loving taskmaster. Chores were done right the first time, and ‘slacking’ was not in the vocabulary at the Moscrip House. Affection was never in short supply. My mother’s dream to see her children do well in life is a testament to how dearly she loved us.
My brother and I were very much into sports as youngsters, encouraged by our father who loved to coach. My mother also supported our various activities, recognizing that team sports teach valuable life lessons such as leadership, discipline, and confidence. Her dreams went further than sports, however, and she insisted that her boys were destined for bigger things. She told us constantly, “I want you to amount to something” and I can still hear her voice. All these years later, her ambitions for me and what I could become still motivate me every single day.
My father’s given name was George, although everyone called him ‘Duke.’ A WWII pilot with the Navy, George was a flashy dresser, sporting the leather cap and jacket combo with a white neck scarf typical of pilots at the time. This earned him his nickname, which in turn was passed down to me when I was born.
My dad was a coach who loved kids, and the kids loved him too. He was a wonderful motivator, always inspiring his teams to do better. Once, when I was playing a less than stellar basketball game, my father grabbed me by the jersey at halftime, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Moscrip, I expect more out of you.” At that moment, I knew I wanted nothing more than to make my father proud. His message, that you can always do better, is what has stuck with me through the years. My constant search for improvement and inspiration is a testament to his legacy.
Much of the success of Duke’s Chowder House is due to my Grampa John Fitzgerald Cox. I remember him as quite the character, a tough-as-nails card shark with a bent arm who liked dancing and drinking. He invented the potato peeler (seriously!) and made his own knives in his basement. But most importantly, he loved to cook, and bragged that his clam chowder was the best in all of New England. Now, I remember that chowder as being rather brothy, and with too much clam taste for my liking. But I never forgot my Grampa’s unwavering confidence in his own abilities. And that is exactly what inspired me to try and make the best Chowder in the entire world. Today, the result is Duke’s Chowder House having a three-time, Championship Winning Clam Chowder recipe, along with over 25 other delicious types of chowder.
As a young boy, I had trouble saying “my big brother.” It came out sounding like “my big bubba” and the nickname stuck. Like many younger brothers, I worshiped Bubba and stuck to him like glue. And like all younger siblings, I suffered painful feelings of rejection when Bubba would ditch me from time to time. I even recall wondering whether Bubba really liked me at all. However, one significant event banished that thought forever. One day, I was about to get beat up by a much bigger kid when Bubba dove in and rescued me from sure defeat. From that day on, I knew Bubba loved me truly and unconditionally.
Since then, the strong bond we had as kids has only grown stronger with age. To say that I love my brother would be an understatement. He has always been there for me, and I will always be there for him. That unconditional love and support gives me the drive to take risks and succeed in my business ventures. Knowing that someone always has my back is a big confidence boost, which allows me the freedom to try new things.
I have 2 children, and I know how lucky I am to have them in my life. They mean everything. Each has their own unique quality that makes them special. For instance, my daughter Amy is a determined woman that latches onto a project and refuses to give up on it. She happens to share my entrepreneurial spirit. And her husband, my son-in-law Kurt, is a great cook, a wonderful father, and a dedicated fire chief.
Meanwhile, my son John doubles as my business partner, and I really could not be happier. John and I make a great team; we complement each other like few father-son duos can. Sometimes there are challenges, but in the end, the business continues to prosper and thrive. John has improved the operation of our company in a big way, and I am just so proud to call him my son, business partner, and friend. Finally, John’s wife Jamie has brought her wonderful sense of humor to our family, as well as her excellent shopping skills. My Christmas list would be a lot harder to tackle without her by my side! All told, I have a great bunch of kids, and I love ’em to pieces.
As for my grandchildren, I admit that I am hopelessly smitten with all four of them. If grandchildren are the dessert of life, then mine are the sweetest! Again, each of them has their own unique characteristics, and I simply can’t wait to watch them grow up into wonderful, interesting people.
My grandchildren represent my most important inspiration. As I said in a recent speech at a fundraiser for Long Live the Kings, a group dedicated to saving wild salmon in the Salish Sea. I will do everything I can to make sure there is plenty of salmon and wild seafood for my grandchildren, and for our grandchildren’s grandchildren. My passion for this cause is immeasurable, and the love I have for my grandchildren is a big source of that passion.
This is why Duke’s Chowder House uses only Wild, sustainably harvested Alaskan Salmon in our kitchens, and continues to contribute to the fight to save local wild salmon. It’s why we also source other ingredients like beef, eggs, and vegetables from sustainable operations. Ensuring that my grandchildren have access to good, healthy food for their entire lives one of is the driving force.
And I must say that my wife Cybele provides support and valuable coaching that contributes greatly to my efforts to be the best I can.
It’s obvious that my entire family history, from childhood to today, has had a profound effect on my work as a restaurant entrepreneur. My confidence, motivation, and inspiration all stem from the love and support of my family. I do my best to pass along that same sense of dedication to my customers, in the form of good food, good wine, and good atmosphere.
Book a reservation at one of our six locations and experience the feeling for yourself.