How local chefs give thanks

by Kristi Maier

| @triadfoodies

As we gather together, there are many meals that a chef misses in their own home. Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays that you’ll hopefully find them cooking AT home, rather than keeping the doors open to the masses. We spoke with some local chefs who’ve enjoyed a particularly compelling year about how they spend Thanksgiving Day, what their favorite traditions are and a few of them even spilled on what they love to make and eat.

Check out some of their favorite recipes here.

Jay Pierce, Executive Chef at Marshall Free House, Greensboro

Not only is Chef Jay thankful to be back cooking in Greensboro at this British pub, he says he thankful to cook for his family and enjoy some Cajun cuisine during the holiday. “Thanksgiving brings hearty food and my granny’s gumbo. I love to spend all day cooking for the ones I love. I spend all year cooking for everyone else in this community, I look forward to this one day I cook for my mom and my wife and our children.” Pierce says some of his family traditions include Southern delicacies and at least one unexpected dish. On his table you’ll find, “Collard greens, mushroom cornbread dressing, roasted sweet potatoes with caramel butter sauce, little smokies with Jim Beam, sweet potato pie with graham crust and a white bean gorgonzola dip that might change your life.”

Chef Richard Miller, Chef de Cuisine, Graze Restaurant, Winston-Salem

Chef Richard has had a very big year. The reigning Triad champ of the Got to be NC’s Competition Dining Series, he’s been getting a lot of attention. “It’s definitely been a great year. I’ve very thankful for the Marriott for my job and I’m definitely thankful for my family”” my wife, parents, children for their support throughout the year.” Miller actually doesn’t get to take it easy on Thanksgiving, as he works the entire week getting ready for the big buffet meal that takes place every year at Graze, “We have 700 reservations this year.” His holiday actually begins on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. “We’ll get together and now that the kids are older, we usually go cut down the Christmas tree. And for our meal, we’ll prepare a bone-in prime rib and deep fry a turkey. For a holiday like this, I like all the classic sides.”

Chef Tim Thompson, Banquet Chef for Twin City Quarter and the Benton Convention Center, Winston-Salem

Chef Tim, who was 2014’s Competition Dining champ is now the Banquet Chef for Twin City Quarter. He says he is very thankful to take a completely different approach to Thanksgiving. “My favorite Thanksgiving tradition is snowboarding. Thanksgiving is usually opening weekend for ski resorts.” He sticks with very non-traditional food while he celebrates. “I like to eat the finest hot dog the ski resort has to offer. I cook year round, so I like to celebrate the day ironically, by doing everything I can NOT to cook.”

He adds, “And this sort of contradicts what I just said, but I am thankful that I make a living doing what I love. Not everyone can say that and I never forget it.”

Chef Chris Blackburn and Sarah Keith, co-owners at Scrambled Southern Bistro/Lindley Park Filling Station, Greensboro

These partners in business and in life are about to be abundantly blessed as they expect their first child in late April. Blackburn and Keith recently transformed their beloved restaurant, Josephine’s Kitchen, into Scrambled Southern Diner, catering to a breakfast, brunch and lunch crowd. Blackburn says, “We’re having friends and family over this Thanksgiving for a ‘Friendsgiving.’ We have a cocktail hour, shoot pool, drink some beers, I always want the canned cranberry sauce, not homemade. This year we’re having a turducken, stuffing, and more often than not, we have prime rib. My sister brings a spinach dip in a bread bowl. It’s one of the best things. We always request that.” Blackburn says they’re very comfortable with this year of change, “We’re really excited about becoming busy parents. And we’re thankful to be busy at Scrambled. It’s been wonderful and overwhelming, but all good.”

Chef Travis Myers, Chef at Willow’s Bistro, Winston-Salem

This is a somewhat new development.

Chef Travis spent several years leading the kitchen at super popular River Birch Lodge. But there’s something about Will Kingery’s Willow’s Bistro that lured him to the land that he himself has recently hashtagged, #SoB40 (South of Biz 40). Myers says he’s thankful to be partnering up with Kingery’s team in the kitchen and looking forward to a lot of culinary freedom and explorations.

“The staff is so devoted to food and easy to work with. I loved River Birch, but really I feel like I’ve been at Willow’s for 10 years. It’s just a different level of passion.” His family traditions include getting together whenever his large extended family on each side (he’s a triplet) can get together as he attends multiple gatherings. Their faves? “We always pull out a charcuterie to snack on when everyone gets there with a couple bottles of wine and craft beer. It’s full of cheese and cured meat and pickles that I make.” He adds, “We have turkey and ham, casseroles, yams, gluten-free items for the ones with allergies and pies like chocolate, pecan and pumpkin.”

This year, Myers says he’s so thankful for family. “I’m most thankful for my amazing wife and my little boy who’s the center of my life. If I could be a stay at home dad, I would. We have a great family, extended family. We all get along really, really well and I enjoy that.”

Mary Haglund; Chef & owner of Mary’s Gourmet Diner, Winston-Salem

You’d have to be under a rock to not know that Mary Haglund has had quite the year of media adventures. Some of it good and not so good, depending on the day. But leave it to Mary to be a duck on water as she continues to just go with the flow. This year, she’s especially grateful. “I love Thanksgiving! I have very strong fond memories from my childhood. My family was so big they rented a church at Thanksgiving. The women cooked, and boy could they cook, and men cleaned up! It was an all-day affair. I now have my family and friends at our house. We serve a lot of the traditional dishes, but I always try to throw a few surprises in. One year I stuffed a whole pumpkin!” She says, “Gratefulness is big in my book. I’ve had a very interesting year. A lot of heartbreak and a lot of joy. I am thankful for all of it. If you live your life in gratitude and lead with an open heart, no matter what comes your way, you’ll flourish.” !

KRISTI MAIER is food writer, blogger and cheerleader for all things local who even enjoys cooking in her kitchen, though her kidlets seldom appreciate her efforts.