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After 40 years at The Rue, what's next? A conversation with Joel and Andree Lippes

Joel and Andree "DeDee" Lippes have been called pioneers of fine dining as restaurateurs at Rue Franklin on Franklin Street.

For 40 years, Joel had commanded the kitchen while Andree worked the front of the house, welcoming guests, remembering favored tables, launching the ultimate dining experience. Earlier this month the Lippeses sold their business, allowing the next generation a chance at running The Rue.

People Talk: Are you suffering separation anxiety?

Andree Lippes: Not me. I loved being at the restaurant for 40 years, but it was time to let go and let a young person do the job. In the back of my head, I knew I would be traveling more, doing some volunteer work at Roswell Park [Cancer Institute].

Joel Lippes: I don't feel a problem with not running the restaurant day-to-day, but I am curious about what I'll fill my time with. I suffer from the same syndrome a lot of people do, and I don't want to use the "R" word. Other than that, I agree with DeDee.

AL: It's easier for women.

PT: When can we expect your book?

AL: It would have been smart to have started it when we started the business. My memory is not that great.

JL: I would not hold your breath waiting for our book. I did advise my successor, Corey [Kley and his wife, Cheryl] to take photos if he should have a special guest. That would help you to remember.

PT: What made your restaurant a success?

JL: I don't think it's nuclear science. It's a fairly simple formula. I think it helps give people confidence if the owners are there.

AL: I remember when there was a problem -- 15 years ago -- when we overcooked someone's steak. I remember what tables people like.

JL: It was a coffeehouse, first Coffee Encore and then Rue Franklin West. I never thought I'd end up owning a coffeehouse, but I lived in an apartment upstairs when the coffeehouse came up for sale. We continued to run it as a coffeehouse with table service for eight years, serving meals on weekends.

PT: What was the best advice you gave your successors?

AL: Just enjoy it, because it goes fast. Both of them are very well-equipped. She has been in the restaurant business for 15 years as a waitress, dishwasher, hostess. He has been with us for eight years as a chef.

JL: I encouraged them to be gracious, respectful and not to be fake. I don't have to encourage them to be hard-working. Corey has high quality standards and no bad habits. She is very soft-spoken, very polite and very nice. You make the food taste a lot better when people are comfortable. Restaurant is a French word meaning ...

AL: ... to restore, to put you back in shape.

PT: How are your feet?

AL: When I came to Buffalo, I was a size 5 1/2 . I am now an 8. So my feet have taken a beating. In some ways all that standing and walking keeps you in shape. All my friends who are waitresses at 60 and 65, they are in good shape.

PT: Which Buffalo restaurant would you like to bring back?

AL: The old Park Lane. I was only there once for lunch in 1971 when I first moved to Buffalo, and it was a very elegant place.

JL: I can hardly remember it, but my parents used to take me to Capellini's on Sundays. For me it was the living end, but I was about 8 years old. There was no unnecessary decor, and a lot of activity. It was across the street from City Hall.

PT: Do you retain any business interest in the restaurant?

JL: We own the building, but we have no interest in the business. There are five apartments above, and the new owners have moved into one of them.

AL: It was built in 1890 as housing for the poor.

PT: When do you plan to return for dinner?

JL: Not until January.

AL: We're giving them three months to not have us look over their shoulders.

JL: I think they'll be happy to see people walk in the door in January. DeDee has offered to help in December when they will have their first baby. I was there this morning talking about book work.

PT: As a rule, do you eat at home or do you eat out?

AL: When we were working, I would always try to make something for myself before going to the restaurant -- not to have to be "picking" all night long. Now it will be half and half. I like to cook Moroccan food when I'm at home. I was born in Morocco, and I saw my mother cook for many years.

PT: Have you been to Marrakesh?

AL: It's unbelievably special. I haven't told my husband, but I think we're going in March or April. My three sisters live in France, and one of them goes there four times a year. Marrakesh is Florida for the French.

JL: It's as close as London or Paris. It's an oasis.

email: jkwiatkowski@buffnews.com