Chef Raises the Titanic…Every Year!

Recreating (and adding to) dinners served on the doomed ship's fateful voyage have been chef David Martone's passion since 2007. People come in period costumes, Titanic tales are told. And everyone eats rather well.

The Titanic

Every year for nearly a decade, chef David Martone of the Classic Thyme Cooking School in Westfield commemorates the legendary sinking of the RMS Titanic by creating a lavish, 3-hour, 10-course meal like the last one that was served to those ill-fated passengers.

This year, for the first time, demand is such that he will, so to speak, raise the Titanic twice:

Friday April 15 and Saturday April 16, both evenings at 7 pm.

To recount the story, the supposedly unsinkable Titanic was making its maiden voyage westward across the Atlantic when, at 11:40 pm on April 14, 1912, it struck an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland. A mere two hours and 40 minutes later at 2:20 am on April 15, the megaship broke apart and sank in frigid waters with more than a thousand of its 2,224 passengers and crew still on board.

NY Times—Corbis-Bettman.
NY Times—Corbis-Bettman.

Martone was inspired to create a culinary tribute to the disaster after seeing an exhibit on the Titanic and its only voyage in Philadelphia in 2006.

“It was an extremely interesting and emotional experience,” he says.

The exhibit began with each visitor receiving a boarding pass bearing the name of one of the ship’s passengers. Martone’s ticket was stamped with the name of Albert Francis Caldwell, a 26-year-old missionary who was returning from Bangkok to Iowa with his wife and young son in second class.

titanic-boarding-pass2

The exhibit took Martone through displays of some of the 6,000 artifacts that had been salvaged from the ship between 1987 and 2002. He and other visitors were able to touch a piece of the doomed vessel’s hull and wade through cold fog to touch a slab of ice that gave Martone a sense of “the temperature and feel of what it was like hitting the water that night.”

In the gift shop, Martone bought a book, The Last Dinner on the Titanic, and went home to begin trying the elaborate recipes of the era. He held his first commemorative dinner in 2007.

titanic-menu2

The 30 seats at his annual dinner at Classic Thyme fill up fast, usually with history buffs who often arrive in tuxedos and formal dresses with hats and parasols. One year two cheeky women showed up wearing swim tubes around their evening gowns.

Each year the menu changes a bit, mixing in dishes from both first and second class menus. This year Martone plans to “add some 21st century touches,” like duck spring rolls, roasted garlic and beef short ribs.

“After doing this for so long,” he says, “we now create a new menu with 10 courses and classic style similar to the original but with a bit more current flair.”

After each guest receives a boarding pass, Martone enters in what he calls his “Titanic party jacket,” a vintage black and purple smoking jacket. Some of his favorite classical recordings are played, such as pianist Vladimir Horowitz’s Mozart.

Soon the smoking jacket comes off and, donning his chef’s jacket, he begins preparing dishes such as poached salmon mousseline, roasted squab with cress, and peaches in chartreuse jelly, while regaling his guests with his knowledge of the ship and its history, from shipyard to final resting place.

Guests follow along on their own parchment menus printed on the letterhead of the Titanic’s owner, the White Star Line.

The ten courses can be “very filling,” says Martone, “but they are portioned and carefully timed,” to let guests relax and enjoy the meal without feeling overwhelmed.

“It’s such a mystery to most people,” he says of the sinking. “You can’t imagine this luxurious ship being unsinkable and then for years and years you hear stories and you can’t imagine that objects survived the ship being crushed. It captivates you.”

Martone’s original inspiration, the Titanic exhibit in Philadelphia, had a bit of an uplifting ending. He later looked up passenger Albert Francis Caldwell and discovered that the meal he and his family were served that fateful night was not their last. The Caldwells were among the Titanic’s 706 survivors.

The cost of the BYO evening is $90 per person.

classicthyme.com

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