Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

A Titanic tribute lunch

When the Titanic began sinking in icy waters of the North Atlantic Ocean more than a century ago, a baker did what he could to help those around him - giving out bread and throwing chairs into the sea for people to hold on to.

British Kiwi celebrity chef Gareth Stewart, the great-great-great nephew of Titanic's chief baker Charles Joughin, will help host a special tribute lunch in Auckland marking the 102nd anniversary of the liner's sinking this week.

Stewart, the executive chef for the Nourish Group of restaurants, will recreate the official lunch menu - but with a modern twist - served on the ship on April 14, 1912, the day it hit an iceberg late that night.

The menu, served to those in first class, shows a range of food including grilled mutton chops, corned beef, mashed, fried and baked jacket potatoes, custard pudding and apple meringue. Cheeses offered included gorgonzola, cheshire, stilton, camembert and roquefort.

Stewart said the idea came from Kiwi cheesemonger Calum Hodgson, of the Sabato Group, who will serve the same range of cheeses eaten by Titanic passengers on that fateful day.

The original menu is "quite vague" on how the food is presented, Stewart said.

"So I've picked up those key dishes, like cock-a-leekie soup, a classic chicken consomme. We've got some beautiful brisket that we'll slow-cook and serve with vegetables and dumplings.

"My spin on the dumplings will be braised beef cheek to go inside.

"It's a great opportunity to take these classic dishes and put a modern spin on it."

The story about Stewart's great-great-great uncle Charles goes that he was off-duty when the ship hit an iceberg at 11.40pm.

Charles Joughin was the baker on board the Titanic when it sunk. Photo / Wikipedia
Charles Joughin was the baker on board the Titanic when it sunk. Photo / Wikipedia

"Being a chef he was a bit of a drinker - and some people say it saved his life. In the original movie, A Night To Remember, he was portrayed as going down into the kitchen and swigging from the whiskey bottle.

'He got plastered, but at the same time, he saved a lot of lives."

Joughin, who refused to get on to a life raft, helped distribute bread to boats and threw dozens of deck chairs into the sea for people to use as flotation devices.

He later ended up in the North Atlantic Ocean himself, treading water for hours before spotting other survivors on an upturned boat. It is thought his high blood alcohol level helped keep him warm.

"Some people say the booze saved his life or the generosity of giving away the bread. But he got pulled in and lived to tell the tale."

Stewart said the story was one the family had always been proud of. "My mum told me when I was a lot younger and it's one of those playground stories that none of the other kids kind of got.

"My great-great-great uncle was on the Titanic and survived'.

"It's a very cool story and I hold it very close to my heart."

• The Titanic Last Day Lunch will be held at Coley & Punch, at Auckland's Princes Wharf, on Thursday. It costs $70 per person.

- Herald on Sunday

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