Walking through the Biro and Sons workshop on a sunny afternoon, with the sound of tools abuzz and people chattering, you can’t help but notice the Seaweed Soup Tureen.
Its full name is the Manny Fagundes Seaweed Soup Tureen, and it’s the trophy for the member of the Knarr fleet who wins the Golden Gate mid-winters, run out of the Golden Gate Yacht Club. This series of four to five races happen once a month throughout the winter. Since 1981, the winner of these races gets to take home the Seaweed Soup Tureen.
John Jenkins, a multiple winner, long-time customer of Biro and Sons, and a passionate sailor, recently brought in the Seaweed Soup Tureen for a repair. Considering that the piece had been passed down among generations of elite sailors, it’s no surprise it had been through a lot.
The top of the trophy broke off from the base and needed fixing – and, of course – it could do for a polish as well.
The Biro and Sons team repaired the base by soldering a bracket back inside, so it allowed the trophy to attach to the wooden base. They then machine polished the piece to ensure extra shine.
“The trophy itself was originally a restoration hardware piece for promotion,” Jenkins explains. He was walking by one day and saw the trophy in the window of a closing furniture shop and offered them $25.00 for it. He then had a cabinet maker create an ebony hardwood stand for the trophy.
“And that’s how the trophy got started,” Jenkins says.
As for the name of the trophy – Manny Fagundes Seaweed Soup Tureen – Jenkins tells the story of a Portuguese man who cooked for the Golden Gate Yacht Club.
“Manny Fagundes lived over the Golden Gate Yacht Club, which used to be on a barge in the 60s and 70s,” Jenkins describes. Fagundes ran the bar and also cooked dinner for everyone after the Wednesday night races.
“What he did – because no one had any money, dinner was $5 – he would go down to North Beach, pick up day-old bread and also bones or whatever from the butcher down there, put it in a huge tureen, dump in a whole bunch of pasta and pick up seaweed from the coast and put that in,” says Jenkins.
This meal became known as the Manny Fagundes Seawood Soup and lives on today as the trophy. Every year, they present the Seaweed Soup Tureen Trophy to the winner of the mid-winter races and it often turns into a party.
“The mid-winter races go back before this trophy,” Jenkins explains, “but the Golden Gate Yacht Club lost their records, so they don’t know the winners before the 1980s. Although I’ve been racing since the 70s.”
The Golden Gate Yacht club has a rich history of its own.
Established in 1939, the historic club started as a barge. As they describe it, it was, “… a gathering place for sailors coming in after a long day of fishing outside the Gate. They were met with a bowl of hot soup and great drinks.” That soup being the Seaweed Soup in the second half of the century.
Unfortunately, the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake destroyed the club, but the members came together to rebuild it and the evolution of the club continues to this day. Winners of the America’s Cup in 2010 and 2013 – a trophy the Biro and Sons team also worked on – they retain their title of the “Friendliest Club on the Bay” they maintain.
“We love working on historic Bay Area pieces,” says Rick Biro. “Our family has roots here and so does our business. We love to honor that by restoring pieces that will live on as part of San Francisco’s legacy.”
It’s the end of a long workday and things are quieting down as the Biro and Sons team hands over the refurbished Manny Fagundes Seaweed Soup Tureen to its rightful owner – the current winner of the Golden Gate mid-winters.