How a Long Forgotten Shipping Magnate Removed His Name from Restaurant Menus around the World

Ever enjoyed a meal of Lobster Wenberg? You will not find the dish on any fine restaurants or diner’s menu today. In fact, the dish existed as Lobster Wenberg for less than a month at Delmonico’s in the 1890’s. This epicurean delight has thrived ever since, but the name has changed, and the man who was responsible for popularizing the treat has been forgotten.

Benjamin J. Wenberg was a late 19th century shipping magnate. He travelled widely managing his far flung enterprise. While on a trip to South America he enjoyed a lobster dish such as he had never tasted before. It was rapture at first bite. He immediately began to assemble the recipe and carried it back to New York.

On a visit to the famous Delmonico’s restaurant Wenberg described the dish to the owner, Lorenzo Delmonico. He raved about the sauce made from sherry, thick cream and egg yolks, and how the shelled lobster taste was so enriched by the creamy concoction. Mr. Delmonico was intrigued and began to have his chef’s work on the recipe. When it was perfected he added it to the menu as Lobster Wenberg, in honor of the discoverer.

The dish was an immediate hit with Delmonico’s wealthy patrons. Word of mouth, the best form of marketing spread like wild fire. The restaurants sales increased dramatically. Then, providentially for Benjamin Wenberg, and the dish he had discovered and initially helped popularize, fate visited a cruel turn.

While on one of his regular visits to Delmonico’s, Wenberg imbibed a bit too much grog, got into a fight with another customer in the main dining room and was permanently evicted from the eatery. Lorenzo Delmonico was furious, and he now had a problem. His hottest gastronomical offering was named for a cad who had torn up his dining room and could no longer visit and partake of the meal he had uncovered.

Lorenzo Delmonico was nothing if not a great restaurateur. He was not going to take the dish off his menu; it was too popular and profitable. However, he was furious with Mr. Wenberg and decided to remove his name from the dish. He chose the name Lobster Newburg, Newburg being the name of a small city on the Hudson River. Newberg is also an amalgam of the letters in the last name of one Benjamin J. Wenberg. Mr. Delmonico never announced definitively which applied.

Today Lobster Newberg is ubiquitous on fine dining establishment menus everywhere. Benjamin J. Wenberg is but a footnote to culinary history and largely unknown, except for his being a footnote in restaurant lore. His name had adorned the dish he was instrumental in launching for less than a month.

History is replete with examples such as this of people who are forgotten, but their discovery, invention or product lives on after being driven to commercial heights by others. But for a night of debauchery, Lobster Wenberg would still be the ultimate indulgence to enjoy after a promotion, the birth of a child, or any of life’s other successes are celebrated.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, Inc. ( has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.