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Food for Thought at Essex Steam Train & Riverboat

Posted on August 25, 2017

Who could have imagined that a world traveled, 20-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force would make the perfect food service leader at a vintage train and riverboat tourist destination? We did, and we are so lucky! Chef E. John Evans, Director of Food Service at the Valley Railroad Company, has been at it for four years and counting, and his primary goal is a recipe with two ingredients: fresh, quality food and a relaxing atmosphere for guests.

How does John take his challenging vision and turn it into a reality for the attraction’s nearly 200,000 annual guests, from toddlers to seniors, who come to eagle watch, visit Santa, enjoy a sunset cruise, ride the vintage train or walk the plank with pirates on The Becky Thatcher riverboat? He makes it seem easy because he truly believes in making people happy and relaxed.

John oversees five, certified onsite pastry and head chefs who are organized into three teams, each having a unique focus on the many experiences that the establishment has to offer: the Steam Train & Riverboat Lunch Excursion, the Essex Clipper Dinner Train, the onsite Trackside Café, offshore Becky Thatcher’s Snack Bar and the variety of catered events. John and his qualified staff are experienced and trained to handle the whole spectrum of cuisine offerings from a delicate, juicy, freshly carved prime rib to a fresh, hand-made chicken salad sandwich on wheat.

“We have a great balance between fine dining, a casual lunch, picnic-style food and what people like to eat at concession-type venues,” says John. “We offer quality food paired with an experience that guests can enjoy.”

While the chefs are doing what they do best, John turns his focus to the guest experience, whether it be the dinner train or cafe. John believes that every atmosphere is important for the relaxation factor in which he so strongly believes. Guests can unwind and enjoy a glass of wine in the convenient Trackside Café which is intentionally meant to be a respite for adults and parents where it is quiet with no music playing.

John is proud of the parlor car, one of the best success stories he has witnessed. Guests can relish in a first-class beverage experience, not unlike the original New England rail scene when travel was king. While guests relax in plush, swivel chairs, an attendant delivers a menu, offering a variety of liquor, wine, and beer. The interaction is intended not to be rushed where payment is clumsily exchanged, but it is meant to be reminiscent of a quieter, more peaceful time.

So during your next visit to our unique attraction, whether you’ll be enjoying a cruise at sunset with friends or having a picnic with the grandkids, be sure to relax and enjoy the food and atmosphere – after all, there is much food for thought going on behind the scenes to make your experience enjoyable and memorable!

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