IT ALL BEGAN BACK IN 1914 when “Chubby” and Bessie Woodman opened their roadside clam shack on the causeway in Essex, MA. At that time, the TV hadn’t been invented, the average yearly salary was $750, and a gallon of milk cost 32 cents. WWI was just beginning, Babe Ruth was a rookie for the Red Sox, the fried clam hadn’t been invented, and it took all day and a beach to cook a New England clambake.
A LOT HAS CHANGED SINCE THEN . . . while Chubby may lay claim to changing only two of these, he made his mark in culinary history through inventing the fried clam and revolutionizing the New England clambake.
IN 1916 HE INVENTED THE FRIED CLAM presenting his new delicacy—clams from the shell coated with corn meal and deep fried in a kettle—during the 4th of July parade in Essex, MA. This is a great story for another time and more space
. . . but from this humble beginning the Woodmans became famous in New England, opening many doors for their expansion into clambake catering.
CHUBBY IMPROVED ON THE ORIGINAL “INDIAN” CLAMBAKE which required a beach—and digging a hole, heating the rocks, and waiting hours to cook. True to his entrepreneurial spirit, Chubby designed a method allowing him to boast—“We come to you and cook.” He loaded everything onto a truck and drove to his customer’s site where he cooked the clambake over a wood fire in large boiler pots. His new clambake system gave him the flexibility to travel throughout New England and serve groups of all sizes at their locations, enabling many more people to experience a New England clambake.
TODAY, 100+ YEARS AND FIVE GENERATIONS LATER, the Woodman family is synonymous with traditional New England seafood at its best. Zagat calls them “A cult classic—right up there with baseball and apple pie, this Essex icon is an enduring American cult favorite.” With awards such as “Best Seafood in America” from Forbes FYI and induction into the MA Restaurant Hall of Fame, the Woodmans enjoy local and national recognition for continuing their tradition of excellence.