Brussels Sprouts and Black Ice: Chefs Share Thanksgiving Plans and Bloopers
We all hope to have a wonderful, relaxing holiday on Thanksgiving, but you know it's the disasters that make the best stories afterward. As the country prepares itself for a collective turkey coma this Thursday, we've canvassed five local chefs for their Thanksgiving plans as well as past holiday horror stories. Read on to hear how Bruce Hill, Matt Accarrino, Jason Berthold, Eric Tucker, and Ravi Kapur will be spending their holidays. You really can't call it "Turkey Day" with this bunch.
Bruce Hill, executive chef and partner, Bix:
I'm cooking for my wife and her family at our house. I live in Hayes Valley. It'll be five people total. I'm going to decide on the menu mostly at the farmers' market, but I know I'm cooking a Marin Sun Farms turkey. There's a good chance I'll cook some Brussels sprouts with pancetta and black garlic. It's one of my favorite holiday dishes. My turkey will be brined. Before roasting, I will make an incision in the spine. When the breast is done I'll take it out and let it rest. And I'll probably cook the legs by themselves for another half hour or so. That's my secret to cooking turkey. The legs take longer.
I have only good thanksgiving memories, I have to say. Though one trip when I was living back East we spun out on black ice on the Pennsylvania turnpike going to my aunt's house. My dad was driving the station wagon and we spun into a snow bank.
Matt Accarrino, executive chef, SPQR:
We're going to be closed this thanksgiving which will be glorious for me because it will be one of my first days off here. Believe it or not I might just hang out at home and maybe eat something besides turkey. Not a big fan. I figure there's pretty good Chinese food in this town. It would seem to me that everybody else would be home and I'd have my run of Chinatown except for the Asian people who don't celebrate Thanksgiving.
I remember one thanksgiving, I think I was 17. I had just got my new car (a Volkswagon) and it was icy. This was in New Jersey. A whole tree branch fell off the tree and onto the car. I was just watching with turkey in my mouth. It was $525 to replace the windshield, and my insurance deductible was 500 bucks.
Jason Berthold, executive chef, RN74:
We're going to be cooking here at the restaurant in the morning with some friends and then taking the food over to another friend's house for dinner. Everybody's really excited to cook in a professional kitchen. We'll have about 12 people. No other professional cooks. I told everybody to bring a bottle of white wine and an apron. My strategy is to let everybody figure out what they're going to make and then figure out my own dish. I don't want to step on anybody's toes if they have a favorite recipe. I probably will end up doing the turkey, though.
About three years ago in Napa, we had family visiting from out of town. Grandparents, in fact. We were just finishing our prep work. Turkey was still in the oven and things going on the grill. And the kitchen sink backed up. We ended up filling buckets of water outside the house and washing our pots that way I was down in the sink trying to root out the clog, but to no avail.
Eric Tucker, executive chef, Millennium:
My plans are to have the busiest day of the year at my restaurant. We're going to do a little over 300 covers. On a really busy Saturday we'll usually do 210. We're the only guys in town doing a vegan thanksgiving. I think for what we're doing it's a really good deal. Not everybody that comes is vegan or vegetarian. It's just a really nicely done dinner. We're making things like house-made walnut bread with pumpkin spread, a muse of various grain salads, pickled vegetables, smoked pimento pate. Some of these are actually variants on either my family favorites or some other staff members' favorites done vegan.
At the restaurant one year we made the soup the day before Thanksgiving. We made 20-something gallons of soup. It wasn't cooled down properly so all 20 some gallons of soup were sour the next morning. We just rounded up the troops, prioritized and made another soup.
Ravi Kapur, chef de cuisine, Boulevard
It's probably the fourth year that we do "orphan's Thanksgiving." It's based around people at the restaurant here that don't have family and can't get out of town because of the nature of the business. So we have everybody over to our house and it's basically a potluck. I'll provide the turkey and this year I'm doing a fresh ham that I've brined. Maybe some beef ribs. And then everybody will bring a side. It's a pretty awesome spread.
I guess the biggest one was Santa Fe, about 10 years ago. I'm from Hawaii, in Santa Fe by myself. My girlfriend had gone to Buffalo for Thanksgiving. I wake up Thanksgiving Day to three feed of snow on the ground, pretty much trapped inside, unable to get out. That was horrendous. Made it to work, had to work thanksgiving. But I'd never really driven in snow and went out of control in the car, did a slow-motion crash into the curb at a four-way stop sign. That was my biggest horror story for Thanksgiving, for sure.