The Charcoal Pit has been a mainstay in Wilmington Delaware for nearly 70 years, serving the community with award winning burgers, sundaes and a warm smile. We sat down with head chef Lupé, who has been with Charcoal Pit for the last 30 years to hear his experiences as part of the Capano Management team.
How did you get into cooking?
I went to culinary school for three years, and fell in love with The Charcoal Pit, and have been here for 30 years. The way we’re always willing to help the local schools and young kids wanting to get started in a working career.
What attracted you to The Charcoal Pit initially?
The family-like atmosphere, the owner’s dedication to helping schools. It’s not just a business; it’s about helping people. It is like a first step for kids who come down to work here, and learning how to be just an adult. And then after building up here, they move they now they’re lawyers, doctors and teachers and I still see them, they come in here and eat.
CM: When you first started what was your role?
I began as a dishwasher, then moved to cooking. Mr. Hudson, the General Manager at the time, mentored me, helped push me and eventually, I became a manager.
CM: Are the same foods popular as when you started?
Definitely, definitely. Ice cream, cheeseburgers, and fries have always been the top items. I’ve introduced specials to keep things interesting, but it’s always going to come back to what people love. The charcoal flame is what gives the meat a unique flavor, that’s hard to beat anywhere else.
CM: Any memorable customer interactions?
I got to serve President Obama, when (then Vice President) Biden already loved this place, and brought him in. But many of my favorite customers have passed away, or are in retirement homes. Customers would bring their grandkids, and then years later the grandkids bring their grandparents. And I mean, it’s generation to generation. They just don’t stop. I’ll hear kids come in and they say “Oh, my dad used to came down here!”
CM: After 30 years, what’s next for you, and for The Charcoal Pit?
I’d like to remain at The Charcoal Pit until I decide to retire. Our goal is to keep the great atmosphere, provide good food, and make customers, the community, and schools happy. We want to keep this place comfortable and continue doing a good job. It feels great when people come in and tell me they enjoy The Charcoal Pit, and that we’re doing a good job.