MacGregor Mann is the chef de cuisine at Amada, the Philadelphia tapas bar and restaurant from chef Jose Garces’, known nationally as a force in creative Latin cuisine. Mann graduated from Drexel University’s culinary arts program, and has worked with chef Garces since 2005.
In 2008, Mann traveled to Chicago to open Mercat a la Planxa, Garces’ Catalan tapas restaurant and bar, as sous chef. In 2009, Mann returned to Amada as chef de cuisine, serving as Garces’ right-hand man both in the kitchen and in Kitchen Stadium on Iron Chef America, where he’s helped Garces compete twice.
The Dish: Pennsylvania Dutch Apple Dumplings
Warm apple dumplings with sweetened milk are holiday breakfast fodder at chef MacGregor Mann’s family’s house in Pennsylvania, but they’re equally satisfying and festive as a post-turkey dessert. The dish is roasted apples taken to the next level, wrapped in flaky dough and finished with sweet cream and caramel sauce.
How do you celebrate Thanksgiving?
All-American, Mom and Dad’s house with my 5 brothers and sisters. We have turkey with all the fixins, pies and then all the guys fall asleep watching the football game and the ladies chat over coffee in the kitchen.
What is your number one tip for someone cooking Thanksgiving dinner?
Roast your turkey breast-side-down, just present it at the table with breast-side-up.
What’s your favorite pick for Thanksgiving wine and why?
I come from a beer drinking family. We usually have some Chimay and local favorites like Victory Prima Pils and Stroudt’s Scarlet Lady.
It’s my favorite thing that my mom fixes for us on holiday mornings when all the kids are home, like in the good old days.
Brine or no brine?
Brine. It not only draws any unwanted scraps from the cavity, it also helps to season the bird and break down the skin to allow for a crisper final product.
What’s your favorite way to use Thanksgiving leftovers?
Sandwiches all week long. My mom often makes a large batch of turkey pot-pie with the leftover bones and meat scraps.
What was your most memorable Thanksgiving dish and who made it?
Judy Mann’s stuffing, always cooked in the cavity of the bird and served with giblet gravy. Fantastic!
What was your favorite Thanksgiving dish when you were a kid and what is it now?
When I was a kid it was all about dessert. Now I go for the baked oysters and Brussels sprouts with bacon.
What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dessert?
What does Mom or Grandma still make better than you?
Mom, anything cooked at home she is much better at. Cooking at home is much harder than having a professional kitchen at your disposal. At home you truly have to be the master of your kitchen domain.
What do you cook at home that you would never think of cooking at the restaurant?
Omelet spaghetti—long story.
What’s your favorite kitchen tool?
My Gray Kunz spoon. A good spoon is invaluable. I also love the Vita-Prep blender.
What do you think is going to be the next big trend in dining?
House-made everything, like things used to be 100 years ago. Sometimes it turns out that processed and bigger is not always better.
When it comes to food, what is your guilty pleasure?
Chocolate mousse bon-bons.
What’s the one dish you’re always trying to improve?
Whole-roasted suckling pig.