Local-area chefs have got birds on the brain. But they don’t exactly do Thanksgiving like you and I do. After all, cooking is their forte and Turkey Day is their Oscars. That’s why we asked a few kitchen professionals about their favorite memories of feasts past, plus we threw in a few curveballs — like, what’s the hot ingredient this year, anyway?
Nina Compton, Scarpetta Miami Beach and Top Chef star
Best Thanksgiving memory: We don’t celebrate it in St. Lucia, so the first Thanksgiving I had was in NYC while I went to Culinary Institute of America. The best part was being surrounded by friends and family and tons of food . I love stuffing; I could eat it every day. My friend made this beautiful sausage and sage stuffing. I can still taste it 12 years later.
Plans? I will be at the restaurant with my second family, my staff, cooking our special menu. We have a meal after service together.
Ingredient du jour: sage and brown butter. Magic combo.
David Bracha, River Oyster Bar and Oak Tavern
Best memory: My wife’s friend and her sister Lisa spent Thanksgiving with us a while back. Lisa is an opera singer, and after dinner she serenaded us and our guests in the yard. It wasn’t planned and so amazing.
Plans? I’ll be in Cleveland with my sister; her mother in law is a great cook and her father in law is a wine collector. I can’t wait!
Ingredient du jour: nuts of all kinds. They’re packed with flavor and lend texture.
Timon Balloo, SUGARCANE raw bar grill and Bocce Bar
Best memory: One year while I was at Azul, Michelle Bernstein mojo-brined all the turkeys. It was the coolest thing for a young chef to see. The flavor was awesome. The bird stayed moist and had a garlic, citrus flavor.
Plans? Hopefully I’ll be able to get out of work early to eat turkey with my family.
Ingredient du jour: a fig purée from [specialty food company] Fondo di Toscana. It’s sweet and flavorful but not overpowering and goes great over salumi or salads.
Josh Capon, Lure Fishbar at Loews Miami Beach
Best memory: Eight years ago when we switched to our first deep fried turkey. My cousin came over with a bottle of moonshine. We never looked back.
Plans? With Lure newly being opened, it’s tough for me to not be around, but Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There are no religious boundaries and we are thankful for something. It’s about the 5 Fs: family, food, friends, football and frying! We have an annual get-together at my sister’s house in Englewood, N.J., that has grown into something special. We are up to about 50 people, five deep fryers and eight birds. We do a little pregame where a lot of friends come before their own dinners and we cook about 1,000 chicken lollipops with assorted sauces. Last year we did flavored Tater Tots.
Ingredient du jour: It’s always about the bird!
Angelo Elia, Casa D’Angelo restaurants
Best memory: A few years ago I was in NYC with my wife, daughter and son. We watched the Macy’s parade and stayed at the Waldorf Astoria.
Plans? Before dinner I will have a traditional antipasto spread. Then I’ll prepare a buffet-style feast of turkey, pasta and side dishes like potatoes au gratin, stuffing made with chestnuts, pancetta and grilled vegetables.
Ingredient du jour: chestnuts.
Jamie DeRosa, Tongue & Cheek
Best memory: I was living in Beijing in 2008 and wondered how I could celebrate in a country so distant from my own. I ended up calling my friend who was also an expatriate and we decided to try to introduce our new friends to our beloved American tradition. Luckily, a local restaurant was offering turkey dinners to go. After scurrying to the market to buy decorations to jazz up my apartment into what you would see at Mom’s house, I had to convince my guests to arrive at 2 p.m. for dinner. To my surprise, we had a great time with pieces of home (turkey, a football, acoustic guitar) and and my current home (“huang jiu,” wine that tasted just like rice).
Plans? We’ll be with my in-laws in Rhode Island. This time of year, the snow is just covering the ground, cool air is so crisp and you can smell those holiday ingredients cooking.
Ingredient du jour: Thanksgivukkuh tchotchkes!
Jason Pringle, db Bistro Moderne
Best memory: It was in my tiny NYC apartment after service. A couple of friends came over. I starting cooking at 11 p.m., and we ate and drank until 4 a.m.
Plans? I’ll be working then have a small dinner in my apartment.
Ingredient du jour: venison.
Makoto Okuwa, Makoto Bal Harbour
Best memory: It was 12 years ago, and I was at Sushi Taro in Washington, D.C. After work, the owner invited all the staff and their families to his house and treated us like a family. It was a welcome culture shock.
Plans? I’ll be cooking at my Italian friend’s house. I’m really looking forward to enjoying an Italian spin [on things].
Ingredient du jour: white truffles, wagyu beef.
Chef Jacob Anaya, OTC
Best memory: Back home in New Mexico, turkey with all the fixings was part of the meal, but it was the homemade dishes that were special: red chili; handmade flour tortillas; green chili; cornbread; tamales.
Plans? A quiet day at home cooking and spending time with my wife and son.
Ingredient du jour: Add foie gras to the stuffing; smooth out mashed potatoes with clotted cream; roll out something new like roulade turkey leg stuffed with black garlic.