What Do America’s Top Chefs Cook for Thanksgiving?

A quick survey of some of the unique dishes that restaurant chefs prepare for their own family dinner

Instead of pumpkin pie, consider serving boereg.(Wikimedia)

We're assuming turkey and stuffing will make its way onto your Thanksgiving dinner table, but what about basturma or stromboli? Here, several chefs share what dishes make their Turkey Day menus really sing:

David Bazirgan or 'Baz' is the chef at San Francisco's Dirty Habit restaurant. While he says he looks forward to his mom's walnut Jello mold and his aunt's bubble bread every year, it's Baz's Armenian roots that lend his Thanksgiving meals an international vibe. "Appetizers include boereg, as well as string cheese and basturma," he says. "We'd eat all of that and then move on to the traditional Thanksgiving feast."

Dirty Habit's pastry chef Francis Ang grew up in the Philippines and he says, "No Filipino Thanksgiving would be complete without pork." Ang makes a sisig bread stuffing that he says goes perfectly with his unique way of preparing the turkey. "I break down the turkey, grind up the legs, and then stuff the turkey breast with the ground turkey legs, liver, sage, almonds, and dried persimmons," says Ang. "Then I wrap the whole thing with bacon and sous vides it. When it’s done, I sear the whole thing on the stove—which crisps up the bacon—and serve it with my dressed-up gravy, made by combining Maggi seasoning and juice from calamansi," a fruit that's widely cultivated in the Philippines.

Chef at LA's family-run Casa Vega restaurant, Christy Vega incorporates her Latin American heritage into annual holiday feasts. "My father’s family grew up in Tijuana, so we have Mexican traditions as part of our Thanksgiving," she says. "One of my favorite items is jalapeno cranberries, which combines a bit of heat with a lot of sweetness. I also always make sweet corn tamales, though smaller in size to serve as appetizers. Covered in rich crema they are the perfect compliment of savory and sweet.”

The son of actor Harrison Ford and chef at the soon-to-open Ford's Filling Station in downtown LA, chef Ben Ford serves a Thanksgiving menu at home that's reminiscent of winters spent in the United Kingdom while his dad was filming Star Wars. His typical dishes include prime rib roast with a horseradish cream; persimmon salad with goat cheese & candied pecans, and split pea soup with smoked ham hocks. For dessert: sticky toffee bread pudding, of course. Ford's menu also features a turkey, though this one's corn cob smoked.

Swiss native and chef at Manhattan's Triomphe restaurant, Florian Wehrli has a soft spot for fromage and inevitably one cheese-based dish finds it's way into every holiday gathering. He says the Gruyere Cheese Pie from his childhood is a time-tested recipe and year after year, it continues to be a favorite among the kids.

Chef Joe Farina of the Rosebud Restaurant Group says Thanksgiving wouldn't be complete without incorporating a few of the classic Italian dishes he grew up with as part of an Italian American household. "Of course, we serve turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes & sweet potatoes," says Farina, "but my family also serves antipasto plates with cheese and meats, fruits, lasagna, arancini, and stromboli. For dessert, we make cannoli and pumpkin cheesecake, both of which are homemade.”

See the next page for a recipe of Chef Ang's Sisig stuffing

About Laura Kiniry

Laura Kiniry is a San Francisco-based freelance writer specializing in food, drink, and travel. She contributes to a variety of outlets including American Way, O-The Oprah Magazine, BBC.com, and numerous AAA pubs.

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