Chef Chat

What Are Houston Chefs Doing for Thanksgiving (Besides Cooking for You)?

With so many great restaurants open for Thanksgiving Day -- and so many chefs working hard on a day when the rest of us are enjoying family time or simply a much-needed day off -- it's tough to find a chef who's celebrating Thanksgiving in any sort of traditional sense.

John Sheely, executive chef and owner of Mockingbird Bistro, is spending the day in the kitchen -- for example -- but not his own kitchen. "We are open all day for Thanksgiving," he says, "so I spend it with our Mockingbird family in between the a.m. and p.m. rush."

Or, as Ronnie Killen of Killen's Steakhouse so succinctly puts it: "Cooking." (This is similar to my mother's typically tight-throated, tight-lipped answer when anyone asks her what she's doing for Thanksgiving, which usually involves serving 30 to 40 people who come and go at all hours of the day before they collapse into total insobriety around 8 p.m.)

And even those restaurateurs who don't have a brick-and-mortar location aren't going to be found stuffing a bird at home. Joshua Martinez of The Modular is working hard to donate his time to a worthy cause, which isn't his normal plan for this time of year.

"I usually do a pot luck with friends then visit with family," Martinez says. "This year I will be making turkeys and serving at Grand Prize Bar and donating all proceeds to OKRA, part of the OKRA Chefs Week at Grand Prize."

At least a few chefs are getting a break this turkey day, however. Amanda McGraw of Brasserie 19 and fiancee Brandi Key of Coppa Ristorante Italiano are two of the lucky ones.

"Wednesday, I am preparing a huge Thanksgiving dinner for the staff - -three turkeys and all the traditional fixin's," says McGraw. "Thursday I'm visiting my family for lunch. I help my mom and grandma cook everything and my 92-year-old great grandmother makes the rolls each year." And the party will continue on into the night, she says.

"For dinner, Brandi and I are having a potluck with a few friends. Green bean casserole for the win."

Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Katharine Shilcutt