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Feast fitfully this Thanksgiving with tips from local chefs

Looking to host a standout Thanksgiving? Area chefs give their advice on how to make a wow-worthy meal.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. November 20, 2019
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  • Eat + Drink
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Crafting an unforgettable Thanksgiving meal is a culinary art form, and four local chefs are helping home cooks bring the magic this November.

Jamil Pineda, executive chef at Michael’s On East in Sarasota; Jeremy White, executive chef at Viento Kitchen + Bar on Longboat Key; Greg Campbell, executive chef at Grove in Lakewood Ranch and Pier 22 in Bradenton; and Joe Askren, instructor/food and beverage coordinator for the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee’s College of Hospitality and Tourism Leadership, offer their tips on how to make an autumn table awesome.

“Thanksgiving is my personal favorite holiday since the only gifts exchanged are hard work, effort and spending quality time with the people you love,” Campbell says. “For the cook, it’s also all about preparation. Start making your grocery list far in advance, and make detailed notes the day after Thanksgiving.

“These notes should be a review of how many people ate dinner, how much you had left over, what the spending on food was, what you would do differently, what the fan favorite side dish was, a photo of your table arrangement and anything else you may want to do better or change.”

Askren agrees that preparation is key and also that less is more.

“It’s easy to get carried away with too many items,” he says. “I believe less is more, which also gives me the ability to perfect each dish. Every family dynamic is different, so every list of house favorites will change. Our family members are not the biggest fans of sweet potatoes, but not having sweet potato casserole in some houses would be heresy. The go-to dishes in my house are turkey (duh), turkey gravy, mushroom stuffing with crispy prosciutto, honey-sage baby carrots, haricot verts with butter-toasted almonds, garlic mashed potatoes, corn casserole, fresh farmhouse rolls, pumpkin pie, apple pie and sweet potato pie with toasted meringue.”

Whatever the menu, be sure to stock it with fresh ingredients, Pineda says.

“If you’re trying to step up your culinary game in the kitchen this Thanksgiving, make as much as you can from scratch,” Pineda says. “The difference in the flavor and quality of your family’s finished meal will be worth the time. There’s nothing quite like the savory, rich flavors of gravy made from pan drippings. That said, I know time isn’t always on everyone’s side for Thanksgiving preparations. So my advice for chefs is to simply breathe and enjoy the moment. Holidays spent sharing a meal with loved ones are a rare commodity these days.”

Sharing the love is easy to do when the food has a bold balance of modern and classic items.

“Focus on mixing the perfect amount of traditional dishes with a contemporary flair,” White says. “Take, for example, seared citrus salmon. It offers a coastal-inspired option with a tangy flavor most don’t expect to see as a seasonal menu option, but it provides a sweet bite that complements all the harvest-season fixings. Impressing the family with little tweaks on holiday classics can prove to be a show-stopping, belly-filling decision that leaves everyone happy.”


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