Like Mother, Like Daughter: A Family Affair at Patsy’s Gourmet

by Dave on October 1, 2010

by Pam George

As far as the Rankins are concerned, the family that cooks together stays together

Patsy Dill Rankin is proof that the old adage “You can do anything if you put your mind to it” has legs.

At 46, after owning kite stores at the beach for 17 years, Rankin decided to make a career change. It wasn’t the first time. She was the first woman working on a Potomac River tugboat in the 1970s. “Ever since, I have never let anything stop me,” she says. She’s also been a graphic artist, a secretary and a teacher.

After selling kites, however, she decided to return to her first love, food, and it’s paid off. For 11 years, she’s been the owner of Patsy’s Restaurant, a culinary fixture in Bethany Beach. Daughter Robin, a chip off the culinary block, works alongside her in the kitchen.

Both women started their love affair with food at an early age. “My mother was an incredible cook and she cooked everyday for six children and two adults,” Patsy Rankin recalls. The family ate dinner together every night and breakfast every morning. After breakfast, there were six red lunchboxes lined up for them to take to school.

Rankin, who helped her mother in the kitchen, then cooked for her own family. “Both my parents were amazing cooks,” Robin Rankin recalls. “We were always experimenting with new things.”

Patsy Rankin sold bread to gourmet stores and taught children’s cooking classes. She also designed a lunch menu and prepped food at a health food store. But when she decided to get serious about a culinary career, she enrolled at L’Academie de Cuisine Culinary School in Gaithersburg, Md., from which she graduated with honors in 1998.

From its start, Patsy’s was a mother-daughter effort. Robin Rankin began as the manager/bartender. She followed in her mother’s footsteps and graduated from L’Academie in 2005. Both women have manned every job in the restaurant. “I don’t ask anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do or haven’t done in my restaurant,” Patsy Rankin says.

Much of the menu is inspired by Key West and Southern cuisine, but Robin’s travels to Asia have clearly influenced the dishes. Consider whole snapper fried tempura-style and served over jasmine rice with a soy-ginger-garlic sauce, or seared diver scallops served over jasmine rice with a red curry-coconut sauce. Southern fried chicken is served on Sundays.

In summer, the restaurant is open seven days a week starting at 5:30 p.m. Currently, Patsy’s is closed Tuesday and Wednesday—there is a Sunday brunch—and it closes for the season after Thanksgiving weekend, at which point the Rankins embark on their travels, where they mine the cuisine for inspiration. The break is well deserved after a summer of working 12 hours or more each day.

To be sure, the women have fought the stereotypes over the years. “I have worked hard to have my own restaurant, and if you can’t accept that a woman is running a restaurant and a woman, Robin, is now running a kitchen, then you shouldn’t be working for us,” Rankin says. “I have worked with a lot of men who thought they knew what they were doing and now aren’t even in business.”

The key, she says, is to stay true to your beliefs. “Be honest, respect your employees and always strive to do better.”

IF YOU GO

Patsy’s Restaurant
121 Campbell Place
Bethany Beach
(302) 537-2433
www.patsysgourmet.com

On Oct. 9 and Oct. 10, Patsy’s will feature guitarist Jeff Severson, a favorite at the restaurant. He has played at Patsy’s many times this summer and was just here last weekend.

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