When David and Linda Trevelino’s son Andrew enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was posted to a nuclear submarine, he told his parents that he slept on top of a torpedo.
At first, Linda thought Andrew was joking, but then she and David toured the World War II-era USS Torsk moored in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and she realized that he wasn’t. Submariners’ bunks — called racks — are indeed on top of torpedoes.
“My wife started to cry when she saw that,” David said.
Then the couple headed to the sub’s galley and it was David’s turn to cry.
“Oh, my God,” David said, remembering the moment he caught sight of the sub’s spartan kitchen. “I don’t know how they do it.”
David is the executive chef at the TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, the ritzy golf club in Montgomery County, Md. He works in a setting that bristles with the latest technology, including a programmable oven that can cook any piece of meat to perfection.
His son Andrew, 27, is a culinary specialist on the USS Chicago. He works in a setting that bristles with the latest technology, too, capable of raining death and destruction on an unsuspecting enemy.
And because a nuclear submarine is a mighty weapon, it’s not something you want to leave unattended. On Christmas you can’t just turn off the lights and lock the door. There’s always a crew aboard, even on Dec. 25.
Three years ago, when David and Linda were preparing to visit their son during the holidays at the sub’s home port in Guam, Andrew asked if his dad could cook dinner for the 50 crew members who would pull duty on Dec. 25.
David decided to do even more: breakfast, lunch and a gourmet dinner on Christmas plus a New Year’s Eve party ashore for the entire crew and their families. (Many have spouses and children living on Guam.)
That first year, 2014, TPC Potomac members donated $21,000 to pay for all the food and the Trevelinos’ transportation and lodging. This year, David raised twice that.
In all, he’ll prepare nearly 500 meals. All the supplies have to be flown in, frozen, but David can still make them mouthwatering. Christmas lunch will feature Kobe beef hamburgers and homemade french fries. Dinner is filet mignon with lobster bisque. For New Year’s Eve at Guam’s Top o’ the Mar club, David will prepare a banquet that includes snow crab claws, 24-ounce cowboy steaks, seafood stew, and mac and cheese.
Cooking on a sub is a challenge, David said: not a lot of room, no refrigeration and all cooking surfaces heated by steam, not gas or electricity.
“That was new to me,” David said. Somehow, he makes it work.
The crew does a bit of holiday decorating. “They have a little Christmas tree in the corner, kind of like a little Charlie Brown tree,” David said. “It’s kind of cool, but in the same way, it’s kind of sad.”
David said he has a new appreciation for the sacrifices our service members make. Last year the USS Chicago was the busiest sub in the fleet, with more deployments — underways, they’re called — than any other.
The crews’ families miss them on Christmas. They feel good knowing a chef has made them dinner — and then posted photos on Facebook.
“I have a lot of parents of the younger kids send me thank-yous because they don’t get to see their sons a lot,” David said.
One of the highlights for David is spending Christmas night aboard the Chicago, snug in a rack like his son. Don’t you worry that war might break out while you’re on the sub and you’ll wake up to find it underway, I asked.
“For them to get going and get out of port takes a couple hours, so I don’t worry about that,” David said. “For me, I think it would be pretty cool to be on it, to be honest with you.”
I bet the crew would agree.
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For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.