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Maria Gutierrez on Old Angler's Inn, Her 'Second House'

Photo: R. Lopez

Old Angler's Inn is widely considered a landmark in the Washington area. Built in 1860 near a 184.5-mile long old trade route along the Potomac River, the dining establishment experienced America's industrious growth, as well as hosted — even kicked out — prominent public figures.

To Maria Gutierrez, the restaurant is her "second house." She has worked at Old Angler's Inn for 32 years. Despite not having any experience to start, she grew as a cook as she took on different roles in the kitchen under several chefs, including Corduroy's Tom Power.

At 17, Gutierrez immigrated to the United States from El Salvador with two siblings. Their mother sent them to live with relatives in 1980 to avoid the country's civil war. A year later, she went to Old Angler's Inn after working at Marymount University. She and a friend needed to switch jobs to be closer to their homes.

Gutierrez was welcomed by then-owner Olympia Reges, mother of the restaurant's current proprietors who revamped the family business after her passing. The late-proprietor, too, immigrated to the United States. A tough cookie, Reges made national headlines when she tossed out Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, Secretary of Interior Stewart L. Udall and their entourage of reporters when they stopped by the inn after an excursion along the historical canal. When Eater asked Gutierrez her experience working for the matriarch, she beamed: "She was a very nice lady."

"She treated me very well," said Gutierrez, who was sponsored by her employer to permanently stay in the U.S. "I enjoyed my time."

Since the time you've been here, what roles have you undertaken?
I stayed [as a] garde manger for 10 years, doing the salads and helping the chefs make soup. Then I started learning more interesting things in the line. Then the chef showed me how to make pastries so I went into pastries. After pastry, I went into line cooking.

For you, what's special about this restaurant?
I've worked with different chefs. You learn from them. I don't need to move to other restaurants. It's been interesting to work with the other guys.

How many chefs have you worked with?
12

Who's been the most interesting chef to work with?
Tom Power, [Jeffery] Tomcheck, Etienne [Jaulin] and Nick [Palermo]. Nick is my favorite.

Why is that?
He's very cool. I like working with him. His food is very interesting.

What's it like working at the restaurant under a new generation of the Reges family?
It's very nice. They are part of my family because I knew them when they were younger. I love them like family. I tell them, "You're like second family to me." I've been here so long. This is my second house.

Is your family in the D.C. area as well?
Yes, I have four sisters and four brothers. We live in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. I'm married as well. I have one child.

Is there a special dish you like to make?
I love to make soup. Cold soup, hot soup. And I'm pretty good.

What are your favorite events to serve at the restaurant?
Weddings. The food is very particular. It's fun.

Have you thought about stopping soon?
Not really. I'm still strong. I still have lots to give.

In three words, how would you describe working here?
It's the best.
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