Thankful at Thanksgiving!

Thankful at Thanksgiving!

Some of us are just excited for the short week. Other’s this weekend is the chance to see and spend time with family and friends we haven’t seen in a while. Working in the restaurant business brings about a big sacrifice of family time. I thought it would be fun to see what some industry people look forward to most this time of year.

Personally, I remember as a kid going to my great aunt’s house. There was way too much to eat from traditional dishes to pasta. When we were done eating, I would sit with my dad and cousins to watch football. We all tended to nap at random times while watching the game.

Here’s a look in to what some are excited for later this week…

Nick KokonasOwner, Alinea & Next - I love buying a bunch of turkey legs and making a turkey confit - simply the most delicious way to eat it!

Bill TerlatoPresident, Terlato Wine Group - Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday. Each year we have the entire family (and some friends) and are about 30-40 people. This year we will be 32.  It is pretty much an all-day affair starting at around noon and ending around midnight following cigars and conversation (some guests just decide to spend the night). As you can imagine, there is way too much food. We usually do 3 fresh HoKa turkeys, my mom’s risotto stuffing, mashed sweet and Yukon gold potatoes, fresh cranberries, etc…and like any good Italian holiday dinner we start with pasta. I open 10-12 wines to taste and compare so guests can also learn. The reason it is my favorite holiday is being together with family and friends and enjoying each other’s company over food and wine. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Leonard HollanderChef at Marion Street Cheese Market - As a kid, I looked forward to my great grandmother's German potato salad and bacon slaw.  Both were an awesome blend of sweetness, acidity, and pork fat and though Great Grandma is no longer with us, these dishes live on in my updated interpretations. Our thanksgiving now happens in Chicago (instead of Cincinnati) and this year we are foregoing turkey as our centerpiece, in favor of goat.  I'll be brining goat shoulder in maple syrup, a bit of bourbon, and loads of herbs and spices, and braising it for 12 hours or so.

Patricio SandovalChef at Mercadito - Growing up in Mexico, we didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but it’s become one of my favorite holidays to celebrate with my friends and family in the restaurant business. Last year’s feast featured two turkeys, butternut squash gratin, pork belly, mashed potatoes, spicy stuffing, Brussels sprouts with chorizo and a variety of desserts, from pumpkin pie to chocolate-hazelnut mini tarts.

Ari Benderskyeditor at - I love Thanksgiving because it's really the one time of the year that my whole family is together -- my cousins come in from Toronto, my aunt and uncle from San Diego, etc. My cousin who hosts is a trained pastry chef and she makes the most amazing desserts -- pumpkin pie, chocolate pie, apple-cinnamon cake and more. And, while it's out of character and not really Thanksgiving food, we have a tradition that one of the apps is a huge plate of mini bagel dogs. All of us love them and we have to control ourselves to not eat too many and not have enough room for turkey.

Sarah KosikowskiExec Pastry Chef of Sixteen - My favorite thing to eat on Thanksgiving is mashed potatoes. I LOVE mashed potatoes (well, potatoes in general since I’m a good warm blooded Eastern European girl)…. As for the holiday next week, I’m looking forward to making pies - especially apple (my favorite to make), pumpkin and pecan.  Pies are my first choice when it coming to eating, as well as my favorite thing to make in the kitchen.  And who can resist a big slice of pie?

Ryan PoliChef at Tavernita - I look forward to being my mom's sous chef for thanksgiving; she does all the cooking and I help out where ever I can!

Dirk FlaniganChef at The Gage and Henri - My favorite Thanksgiving dish is Roasted Elk Roast, stuffed with bourbon cherries and squash. I can’t wait to make and eat Brussels sprouts with brie and smoked bacon that I created on the fly many years ago and have made every Thanksgiving since.

Rodelio AglibotThe Food Buddha - For the last five years, my Chicago tradition has been waking up in the morning on turkey day. We grab a few bottles of wine and meeting my best guy friends Chef James Gottwald and restaurateur Joe King in the back alley of Le Colonial. By 10am the first bottle is open as we begin to cook Thanksgiving dinner for 30 turkey day "orphans" friend who can't be with their families. We begin to cook from the heart and drink w our bellies for 4 hours. The best of times.

Gregory Ellis - Executive Chef of 2 Sparrows - My favorite dish to eat on Thanksgiving actually isn't what I sit down to eat for Thanksgiving dinner at all.  I really like taking all of the leftovers (cold, of course) and smashing them between two pieces of Wonder bread and eating it as a sandwich.  What I look forward to about this week's holiday is that it brings relaxation and time with friends and family.

Allen SternweilerExec Chef Butcher & the Burger - My favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal is eating the stuffing mixed with the gravy, but the stuffing has to be baked inside the turkey. As an avid hunter, I also look forward to going on an early morning hunting trip with my family to kick-off the holiday weekend.

Jeff KauckKauck Photography - I'm looking forward to a family tradition, "Aunt Mary's Green Beans.”
Basically a classic 50's recipe of green beans that simmered for hours on the stovetop with ham hock and tomatoes. Delicious!

Joe Campagna is the Chicago Food Snob. A former restaurant General Manager, Server and Chef you can find him on twitter @chifoodsnob. You can reach him through email at Joe is retained as a compensated blogger by Pei Wei Asian Diner and also contributes to Eater Chicago.


Filed under: Uncategorized


Leave a comment
  • All these people are filthy rich. That's a pretty good reason why they would be excited and thankful this time of year (or anytime).

    If I were one of these people, I would be stuffing my turkey with hundred dollar bills and inviting runway models for dessert. But alas, most people aren't that awesome.

Leave a comment