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Chefs Reveal the Most Luxurious Part of Their Thanksgiving Meal

Some of America’s leading chefs talk about what takes their Thanksgiving dinners over the top

Thanksgiving is the official beginning of the holiday season, and the week before, most of us are busy strategizing—our getaways and, especially, our meals. There’s probably no one out there with more to plan than chefs, who often must create the perfect holiday experience for their own families and hordes of hungry customers. DuJour asked some of the country’s leading chefs: What’s the most over-the-top part of your Thanksgiving celebration?

“Time. For most of the year I’m running to and from Sweden and all over the country that I’m grateful to have some time with my wife and friends on Thanksgiving. Those who know me know that I can’t sit still for very long, so to be able to spend the day preparing this meal is the most indulgent part of the holiday. This year I think I’m going to shake up a SKYY Vodka Apple Spiced Martini—like dessert before dinner.” — Marcus Samuelsson, Red Rooster Harlem, New York

“The food and wine, while traditional, is over the top. We have lots of favorites that are on the menu every year: turkey, black walnut stuffing, zucchini casserole, and my riff on Caesar salad. And we always try at least one other meat; roast prime rib, crown rack of pork, stuffed veal breast and one or two new sides.” — John Unwin, CEO, Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

“Thanksgiving is my favorite food holiday, and as an Italian-American Chef we always do both Italian and traditional Thanksgiving foods like antipasto platters and my mother’s lasagna, and then my kids’ favorite sides to go along with the two turkeys I make, like my cornbread sausage stuffing and miso sweet potatoes.” — Todd English, The Plaza Food Hall by Todd English, New York

No doubt the gravy. Last Thanksgiving, I brined my turkey and cooked it in a clear roasting bag. When the turkey was done, it gave off so much natural juice that was clear, super flavorful turkey broth. I then used duck fat to make the roux to thicken it. Oh brother, the best ever!” — Ford Fry, The Optimist, Atlanta

“It’s not Thanksgiving unless my mother FedExes my sister and I Neese’s Hot Sage Sausage from North Carolina. It is the key ingredient in her dressing and our favorite Thanksgiving dish. The sausage is never sold frozen and still comes wrapped in waxed paper, so my mother buys it, freezes it and ships it to us on dry ice so we can experience an authentic North Carolina Thanksgiving even if we aren’t in North Carolina.” — Elizabeth Karmel, Hill Country Chicken and Hill Country Barbecue Market, New York 

“It’s that my family tries to do an entirely American dinner. Every ingredient we use, from olive oil to wine to salt, is made in the United States. Thanksgiving is the only absolutely American holiday that there is and I come from an incredibly food-driven family—we talk about dinner at breakfast.” — Erling Wu-Bower, Avec, Chicago

“The most luxurious thing about my turkey day is the juice! The debate over what is the most “appropriate” wine to serve at dinner is perpetual. As I have always held opening a great red Burgundy as a holiday unto itself, I find myself digging in to my cellar for that trophy bottle I’ve ogling all year. It’s a holiday that is supposed to be about sharing, so open something you normally wouldn’t every day.” — Matt Corbett, InterContinental New York Times Square, New York

“There’s nothing better than good caviar and the turkey ‘oyster.’ I like to eat them together as a little amuse-bouche. I have to be clandestine about it because everyone wants the oyster.” — Jesse Schenker, Recette, New York

 “At my mom’s house, she and my grandmother used to put out a huge antipasto before the meal. This was our way of working the Italian into the American holiday. The amount of money spent on salumi and cheese was like a house payment.” — Victor La Placa, Isola Trattoria & Crudo Bar at Mondrian SoHo, New York

I’m not a big fan of turkey meat, which is a bit too lean for my taste.  When I host, I usually cook duck with foie gras and truffles. One year my friend insisted on sticking to tradition so I made a boneless twice-stuffed turducken—which has chicken, duck and turkey—something for everyone. I reserved and roasted the bones for extra gooey gravy.” — Pichet Ong, Sugar and Plumm, New York

“I cook three turkeys. I roast one the traditional way, I grill one, and I fry the other.”  — Brian Huston, The Publican, Chicago

“The most luxurious part of our dinner is usually the wine. My dad and his brother fancy themselves to be wine enthusiasts, so an old Brunello ends up being the showstopper.” — Jim Burke, Caffe Storico, New York

“In my family, Thanksgiving was about turkey, but it took the back seat to more luxurious things like stuffed shrimp, filet mignon and roast suckling goat. It was a feast leading up to turkey later in the day. If I’m not at the restaurant at Thanksgiving, which is rare, I’m sitting down with my family to have that kind of celebration. At Aldea, we always offer foie gras as the most luxurious part of our holiday menu. It sells really well on Thanksgiving Day.” — George Mendes, Aldea, New York 

“Thanksgiving always begins with champagne and lots of it. Sometimes it’s champagne all night! Anyone who attends my Thanksgiving dinners knows everyone is welcome—but with a bottle of champagen in hand, of course!” — Manuel Trevino, Marble Lane, New York