6 Chefs Tell You How To Win At Thanksgiving Dinner

by Hillary Eaton

Are you hosting Friendsgiving? Responsible for the Turkey? Don’t freak out, follow these pro-tips from some of LA’s best chefs and get ready for a Thanksgiving to remember. Whether it’s how to nail the perfect side dishes or secrets to a chef-worthy brine, these fail-safe tips are everything you need and more to put together the perfect feast. Happy Thanksgiving!


Chef Michael Fiorelli, Love & Salt

Chef Michael Fiorelli of Manhattan Beach hot spot, Love & Salt, is all about making things ahead and keeping friends and family involved: “Choose things you can do ahead and keep warm so you can spend time with your guests and not be in the kitchen all day. Don't be afraid to ask people to participate by bringing a dish and finishing it with you in the kitchen. It makes the day more fun and interactive and will decrease your workload.”


Chef Ted Thompson, The Bellweather

The Bellweather’s Chef, Ted Thompson, credits a good Thanksgiving to time management. “Make a flow chart, or a schedule and try and stick to it. Most home cooks get stressed out with timing the meal together.” And of course, no Thanksgiving is complete without some good stiff drinks. “Drink a lot,” Thompson says—“You can make infused cocktails earlier in the week to prep for Thanksgiving.”


Chef Brian Malarkey, Herringbone and Searsucker

"Limit the amount of dishes you have so that the ones you make are really great. It’s better to have 4 or 5 perfect tens than 6 or 7 mediocre fives,” says Chef Brian Malarkey. Looking for that extra push to get that dish to a 10? “Challenge yourself by making an incredible stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce – you are better than a box or can! Add olives or something else with acid to the stuffing and gravy as fat needs something to lighten it up, and make sure to get some great citrus involved.”


Chef de Cuisine Chris Emerling, Bel Air Bar + Grill

When it comes to the star bird, Chef Emerling focuses on the brine and a strange trick for an even cook: “I brine my turkey overnight in a solution of water, salt, brown sugar and other aromatics that I have around the house such as garlic, apples, oranges, rosemary etc. The turkey will soak up this salty solution, flavoring it and keeping it moist during cooking. Another tip is, before cooking, let the bird sit out on the counter for a while with ice packs on its breasts. This way, when it does go in the oven, the legs (which take longer) will start to cook immediately while the breasts have to play catch-up, allowing them to be done at the same time.”


Chef Kris Morningstar, Terrine

If you really want to kick your turkey up a notch, Chef Kris Morningstar suggests injecting your bird with a needle. Yeah. “The flavor and moisture you get from doing this can't be achieved any other way. For brunch at Terrine, we serve a Pickle Brine Fried Chicken & Grits with scallions and maple, and we inject leftover brine from the kitchen directly into the chicken via an injecting needle, and also apply the brine over the dish at the end. The same process would work wonders for turkey which can easily dry out. I would use a combination of rosemary and orange for the brine, and then if you’re really trying to impress, make an orange butter and rub it under the skin to baste while the turkey is in the oven. Try it, it’s magical.”


Chef Jared Levy, The Eveleigh

When it comes to family quarrels, burnt dishes, or host stress, there’s one thing that can always fix any Thanksgiving problem: more wine. “Magnums fix everything,” Chef Jared Levy of The Eveleigh tells us. When it comes to carving the bird, “take the whole breast off before you slice it, then drizzle some olive oil, lemon and salt and pepper over it after you slice it. Eat one of the oysters and share the other with your favourite person.”