Chefs Talk Thanksgiving Traditions

Courtesy The Effortless Chic
With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, the holiday season is right around the corner. In honor of the traditions that surround your own celebrations, we caught up with four chefs from Austin and beyond to see how they give thanks.
Matt McCallister
FT33, Dallas
Image Courtesy D Magazine | Kevin Marple

What is your favorite Thanksgiving tradition in your family?

When I was 5 years old my mom taught me how to make stuffing, and I have made it the same way every year. It was probably the most integral part in my deciding to cook for a living.

It starts out with selecting loaves of fresh sourdough, mixed grain, and baguette and breaking them up to air dry for a week. Then, making a stock with the neck innards and wing tips of the turkey to moisten the bread and make giblet gravy. (Usually we would make chicken stock to supplement.) Lastly, we sauté a medium dice of mire poix and mash it all together with eggs and herbs.

What is your personal favorite dish on the Thanksgiving table?

I love my green chile cheesy potatoes…I think they’re the most amazing thing in the world!

What will you be preparing for the big meal this year?

I’ll be making stuffing, a full turkey, green chile cheesy potatoes, and more. Thanksgiving is truly my favorite holiday — me and my mom had a blast cooking for the family growing up.

I carry on the traditions from my childhood as best I can. I might be a little more technical in practice, but at the end of the day it’s about spending time with family and friends.


Tandy Wilson
City House, Nashville
Image courtesy Sheri ONeal Photography

What is your favorite Thanksgiving tradition in your family?

The whole family watching football together and eating all day. It was always the Egg Bowl when I was a kid, for sure. We have family in Columbus and they are the cow bell ringing type.

What is your personal favorite dish on the Thanksgiving table?

Southern Dressing — mom’s is the best. She uses home made cornbread and biscuits, giblet gravy and hard boiled eggs.

What will you be preparing for the big meal this year?

Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan Sorghum Topping. The sweet potatoes are a recipe from my Nana. She passed away when I was 11 and the family wrote a cookbook. This is one of the many delicious recipes we use to remember her.


Alexis Chong
Sway, Austin

What is your favorite Thanksgiving tradition in your family?

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, but it’s also the hardest because my family is so far away. My folks live in Montana and my older brother lives in Napa. But when we are together, it’s all about the time we spend preparing the meal together the night before. And we always have an epic breakfast the next morning!

What is your personal favorite dish on the Thanksgiving table?

I LOVE dressing, from the super fancy kind to straight out of the box — as long as there is a nice amount of caramelized onion, celery, garlic and sausage. No meat is good, too!

What will you be preparing for the big meal this year?

This year, I’m attending a Friendsgiving hosted by Rick Lopez of La Condesa. I haven’t been assigned a dish yet, but I’m open to just about anything… Except the eggnog. It’s such a process to make, though I do love a good foam mustache.


Chris Shepherd
Underbelly, Houston

What is your favorite Thanksgiving tradition in your family?

Taking food to our local firehouses. We’ve been doing it for about five years. I started doing it at my previous restaurant, Catalan, and when I opened Underbelly, I started taking food to two stations near the restaurant. We always go to Fire Station #16.

What is your personal favorite dish on the Thanksgiving table?

Stuffing — I just love it. My mom’s is the best. She uses smoked canned oysters, so it’s oyster dressing and it’s heavy on celery and bay leaf.

What will you be preparing for the big meal this year?

We’re doing Thanksgiving To Go at Underbelly, so I’ll be ordering an extra of everything for my family! I’m particularly excited by the Shepherd Family Rum Sausage (also my mom’s recipe). This was a dish that represented a celebration when I was growing up — every holiday called for rum sausages!