Our Williams-Sonoma Chefs’ Collective is a panel of American culinary experts deeply rooted in the community who share their insights, ideas and innovations with us year-round. So it goes without saying that when the biggest food milestone of the year—Thanksgiving!—comes along, the first people we turn to for cooking and entertaining advice are our friends in chef whites.
We asked a number of our Chefs’ Collective members to weigh in on what being a chef has taught each of them about Thanksgiving. Here’s what they had to say.
“Cook everything you possibly can in the days leading up to the big day: stuffing (I never cook it inside the turkey), cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, collard greens, pies, cookies. On Thanksgiving Day you should only worry about making turkey and gravy. You’ll have so much more time to drink wine. And save the turkey carcass when you’re finished carving. Cut it into pieces with shears, roast it further in the oven, and simmer it very slowly in a pot of water overnight so that you have delicious brown turkey broth the next morning. Soup is my favorite thing to make with Thanksgiving leftovers.”
“I think the most important thing that being a chef has taught me about hosting a great Thanksgiving is that food has the ability to bring us together. While the food and menu certainly matter, the time we spend with our families and loved ones, simply participating in the act of cooking, dining, conversing—these are the things that truly matter. It is this that fuels the desire to make the food sing!
“My family has many time-tested recipes. Revising my mother’s and grandmother’s recipes are such a great opportunity to reconnect with the past, yet set the tone for the future by way of riffing on their ideas. I find it the best and romantic aspect of being a chef: falling in love with the culture that surrounds the act of cooking, serving and dining.
In New England, we see Thanksgiving as a season, not just a holiday. It is to be celebrated all month long!“
The most important part of hosting Thanksgiving is family, pure and simple. Pardon the pun, but the rest is gravy. Keep it light, keep it fun and make sure everyone has something they like to eat. The rest will take care of itself. It isn’t about the host, it’s about your guests.
Being a chef is about being hospitable. I remember hosting a Thanksgiving two years ago, inviting a bunch of friends and coworkers (who were new to L.A.) and cooking a ginormous feast for everyone. At the end of the day, Thanksgiving is about being thankful for the people you have in your life.
Being a chef makes it easy to host a great Thanksgiving when you treat it like a busy Saturday night service. If you have a detailed prep list with a schedule of tasks over the few days leading up to Thanksgiving, you can make sure all of the dishes are as ready to go as possible (and avoid cooking for 12 hours the day of). While the turkey is resting, finish all of the last-minute details and visit with your guests. You’ll make it seem like it was a breeze putting a feast on the table.
Follow along as we continue to gear up for Thanksgiving! Earlier on our Thanksgiving Countdown: