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Chefs' Confessions: Thanksgiving Traditions

Mohini Kundu | November 21, 2012 | Food & Drink Story Eat and Drink

With all the hand-art hype, it’s easy to forget that Thanksgiving isn’t all about the turkey. It’s about the traditions that we spend our lives creating with the help of our families and friends. For these three chefs, Thanksgiving is a blend of past and present where their roots peek into their daily lives and they can pay homage to their adopted homes in the San Francisco Bay. For some, hometown customs have survived many years of culinary growth – and for others, Thanksgiving has become a tradition of innovation.

Anthony Strong, Locanda’s rising star chef

A dish for keeps: Grandma’s homemade stuffing
The new quirk: A ribollita twist

Strong makes his grandmother’s stuffing recipe every year for Thanksgiving, but since he started working with Delfina, the dish has gotten a delicious modern upgrade. “One day someone just pointed out that ribollita and stuffing have essentially the same consistency. Delfina serves it constantly this time of year - it’s amazing.” Pairing his grandmother’s traditional ingredients with the Tuscan stew preparation has become a staple in Strong’s SF Thanksgiving celebrations.

Central Kitchen’s Thomas McNaughton

A dish for keeps: Mom’s sweet potato casserole
The new quirk: Pasta

With his apartment just above the kitchen at Flour + Water, McNaughton rarely cooks at home. Thanksgiving for the chef is similarly celebrated in the restaurant - a tradition he shares with his fellow chefs and friends in the industry. His most recent turkey day feasts have been a far cry from the customary fixings of his South Jersey childhood with new themes and menus every year. But one dish has become an unintentional Thanksgiving tradition - "We always say we won't do it, but half way through dinner someone will go into the kitchen and put a pot on to boil and we'll have some pasta."

Preeti Mistry of Juhu Beach Club

A dish for keeps: Turkey with all the trimmings
The new quirk: A guanciale coating

Having a mostly vegetarian family has never stopped Mistry from celebrating Thanksgiving with its well-established star - the turkey. "Thanksgiving has no religious affiliation. Everyone just wants the traditional feast." In recent years, however, she has adopted the practice of wrapping her turkey in guanciale, "It makes the turkey really nice and juicey." But would she ever consider an alternative to the bird? "Never."


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