We thought it would a good idea to post chapters from the book written about our family’s restaurant to let you know how our past become our present and future. Here is a excerpt about how Gramp (Chubby) started serving clambakes.
Gramp was always coming up with ways of changing or improving the business. The clambakes were probably his most lasting innovation.
Gramp put on his first clambake about l923. (In a l938 newspaper article he refers to it as being l5 years before.) Nana’s father used to put on bakes for a gang of men two or three times a year; that’s where Gramp got into them.
Nana’s father’s bakes were the old Indian style. They used to heat rocks and throw seaweed on. Then they’d wrap the clams, corn and everything in cheesecloth and put it under the seaweed. They’d actually bake it.
With the Indian method, of course, you had to know when to unwrap the food. If you opened it up too soon, you were licked, because the food wasn’t cooked but you could as easily overcook it. What’s more, when there got to be too many boats in the river, the seaweed became unusable because it was so oily.
So there were problems with the Indian way. That’s why Gramp changed it. He realized that bakes could be commercialized. That’s the way his mind worked: to see the commercial possibilities in everything. He could see there was a dollar in this, and he improvised a way of steaming the food in stainless steel tubs. Today’s clambake, as we know it, isn’t a clambake; it’s a clamsteam. That was Gramp’s idea.
The result was that in a lot less time you could take care of a lot more people, and you could have many more bakes. We’ve catered as many as 21 bakes in a single day. That would have been impossible with the old method.
From his early experience working on the Prince estate, Gramp learned a lot about relating to wealthy people. So he had no qualms about approaching these people and selling them on having clambakes. Anyone in Essex could have done this, but only Gramp had the guts to approach these people and make the business fly.
His first customer was Mr. Jackson who lived next door to Lorings over in Beverly Farms. The Jacksons must have been satisfied with the service, because they booked a bake every year thereafter. They always scheduled it by the moon — something to do with the full June moon. In any event, they never got rained out. Not once.
Gramp held a lot of big bakes, but the biggest, no question, was Marietta, Ohio, in 1938. The first wagon-train that ever went out to the Ohio Territories left from Hamilton and settled in Marietta. To commemorate the l50th anniversary of the Ohio town, the citizens of Marietta decided to have a clambake for the whole town. Gramp was hired to go to Ohio and organize it for a $l00 fee.
He drove out with Nana, one of Nana’s sisters and her husband. When they got there, they found rail cars filled with nearly 200 bushels of clams and a big supply of rockweed.
He organized 100 Boy Scouts and 100 town employees. They lit fires in a long line and set some 100 washtubs filled with clams and weed on to cook. He showed the boys how to open and eat the clams, and they circulated amongst the crowd giving lessons. They served upwards of 5,000 people.
Years later, Deck ran a bake in Dighton, Massachusetts for about 1,700 people. They were all served in three-quarters of an hour.
Located in Massachusetts? Take a look at our clambake catering service.