Celeb Chefs Tell Us About Their First "Adult" Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, for most of us, is primarily about the food. So, naturally, it's easy to imagine that our favorite celeb chefs are probably eating the best of the best on Turkey Day. After all, when your life revolves around cooking, you don't exactly get by serving your guests canned cranberries. At least not anymore.

We asked some chefs about the first time they stopped being the "kid" at their family dinner (a role that can last well into your 30s) and became the person hosting the big meal. Even professionals can avoid cooking Thanksgiving dinner well into adulthood, sometimes with mixed results. From dropped turkeys to Friendsgivings done exactly the way they want (and even a box-mix stuffing), here are six chefs on the first time they really hosted Thanksgiving.

Photo: Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images/SOBEWFF.
Giada de Laurentiis

"Thanksgiving isn't an Italian holiday so growing up I didn't really do [it]. The first time I actually catered a Thanksgiving it was my first gig outside of a restaurant and so I had a new client and I'd made a turkey, the whole the whole nine yards.

But they had a dog in the house, and so this golden retriever was at my feet at all times. I did not notice that the dog got in front of me as I was carrying this giant turkey to the table. I tripped over the dog and the turkey landed on the ground and I have never seen a dog move that quick. He basically took the turkey and ran. I panicked!"
PHOTO: ELENA SEIBERT.
Deb Perelman

While promoting her new cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Everyday, Perelman shared with Refinery29 that she the only time she's actually hosted a Thanksgiving dinner was a Friendsgiving last year leading up to the actual holiday. "After all these years of cooking and writing about cooking, to actually you know make turkey and figure out what works and figure out what was a total disaster, was really fun"

The get-together also allowed her to make her ideal Thanksgiving meal, as her family's celebrations have morphed and changed over time. "I wanted to cook the dishes I wanted, I didn't want a potluck," she says, though if friends had specific requests for dishes that it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without, they contributed it, like a friend from Texas bringing cornbread.

"It was fun to think of family not just as the people you were given but the family you choose in your friends, which is just a very cloying way to say it, but it was so special and so fun."
PHOTO: BARRY JOHNSON.
Jacques Torres

The chef and chocolatier didn't celebrate Thanksgiving until he moved to New York to work in restaurants in the 1980s.

“My first Thanksgiving was when I was working a Le Cirque. I heard about what Thanksgiving was and what it meant, and we cooked a feast at the restaurant. All the food… the turkey, the side dish, and of course, the dessert. I took everything home and invited all the cooks and pastry chefs who didn’t have any family in New York and had our Thanksgiving together. Then we drank lots of wine!"
Photo: Courtesy of Leah Cohen.
Leah Cohen

"My first time hosting Thanksgiving was two years ago at Pig & Khao. The restaurant was closed, but I hosted my family and friends for a private dinner totaling 30 people. [My husband and co-owner] Ben and I made everything for the dinner except dessert, which people brought. We made fried turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, creamed spinach, and Brussels sprouts. Everything went smoothly except that the turkey was too big to be fully submerged in our deep fryer. So Ben made a makeshift contraption with butcher’s twine and it was easy to flip over. Other than that, it was smooth sailing!"
Photo: Todd Williamson/Getty Images
Richard Blais

While discussing the chef's Thanksgiving-friendly partnership with the Morton Brine Time Alexa Skill, we asked Blais about the first time he spent Thanksgiving on his own.

"I think my first 'adult' Thanksgiving happened when my wife and I spent our first turkey day as a couple, alone, but not lonely...We were both working in the restaurant business and exhausted from a busy week including working Thanksgiving day, but managed to put together a couple traditional dishes on a limited budget and with time constraint. We didn’t have a whole turkey, but managed to get some turkey wings and legs late in the day. I gave them a quick “cure / dry brine” and braised them confit style in some duck fat, vegetable oil herbs and spices. We mashed up some rutabaga, made some boxed stuffing (gasp!) and popped open a tin of cranberry jelly. The rest is history..."
Photo: Courtesy of Adam Richman.
Adam Richman

"I had my first 'adult' Thanksgiving when I had my first grown up “big boy” house, probably right around 2010. I served a few kinds of mashed potatoes, a big pot of greens, two different turkeys, and a whole bunch of appetizers – ranging from brandade made with cauliflower, pulled pork egg rolls made with pork I got from Cabot, Arkansas, to a ton of charcuterie and olives. My mac and cheese was delivered from the best place on planet earth, Slows Bar BQ in Detroit, MI. My mom made her stuffing and was in charge of dessert, and she absolutely came through with a variety of pies and cakes.

As I am a coffee collector, I was also able to make a few different kinds of coffee for people to try and pair with different desserts."
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