November 7, 2012

Soup to Nuts: When chefs give thanks

We polled several of southern Maine's best-known cooks to learn how they observe Thanksgiving, with some entertaining, heart-warming, even surprising results.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

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Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier

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Sam Hayward

Additional Photos Below

After the last guest departs, though, the entire staff from both MC and Arrows and sometimes even some folks from Summer Winter sit down for dinner. Traditionally, each person at the table has to tell what they felt was the most embarrassing moment for them at work that year. It's pretty fun.

For years, Mark and I lived above Arrows (happily we no longer do) and Mark would get up at the crack of dawn to put the turkeys in and make coffee. Even though we no longer live at Arrows, Mark and I still drive over and go through this very satisfying ritual.

We brine our turkeys in the old claw foot tub at Arrows the day before cooking. When the Today Show asked us to do a segment on turkey, we asked if they happened to have a claw foot tub up their sleeves, and lo and behold they did. Boy, did Al Roker have a blast throwing the turkey into the tub!

Guilty pleasure: Mark's sourdough stuffing is quite simply the best I've ever had, and we serve it most years. Sometimes we get a bit wild and do his Boston Brown bread stuffing though, that he created for "Bon Appetit," and it's a close second. 

CHRIS BASSETT, Azure Cafe, Freeport

Thanksgiving is far from a day off for me. At Azure Cafe, Jonas Werner gives back to our community in Freeport by delivering the best Thanksgiving meal available anywhere, for free. I know this is true, I cook it.

Most of the raw food is donated, and we volunteer our time to cook, serve and deliver the dinner, not only to our community buffet but also to the homes of those who are housebound.

After working in hotels for many years, I was accustomed to working the day, but this event changed everything for me. To be part of an event that brings out such happiness and gratitude in a community was eye opening. Azure is open 363 days a year, lunch and dinner. We are only closed Thanksgiving and Christmas. A guaranteed day off would be welcomed. I wait until Christmas. On Thanksgiving morning, I arrive at 5 a.m. at Azure to get the turkeys in the oven. We usually wrap up around 3 p.m., and I have plenty of time to invite the family over to my house where I reheat community dinner leftovers and serve again.

Guilty pleasure: All the guilty pleasures are there. Roasted turkey, stuffing made with hand-cut bread and turkey stock, baked ham, mashed potatoes, glazed sweet potatoes and carrots, green beans with fried onions, house-made cranberry sauce, sweet corn pudding and pumpkin and pecan pies with whipped cream. Most of which I only eat during Thanksgiving. 

DAVID TURIN, David's in Portland and David's 388 in South Portland

When we moved to Monument Square I made a decision that we were going to be closed on all the holidays that any family might want to get together on, so we closed on all the high holidays and the American holidays like Superbowl Sunday, for example (laughing). But that was only because I couldn't get anybody to work. So it is a day off for me, and I appreciate it all the more, I think, having cooked Thanksgiving in so many hotels and then restaurants that I owned. You're there really, really early, and it's very, very busy, and to have it off is a real treat.

I don't know that there's that expectation (that I will do most of the cooking at home). It's come to be. My wife has taken on an interest in cooking some of the things for sure, like cranberry sauce and making a pie or doing a lot of the other things. But I've gotten a method for cooking my turkey that's gotten to be extremely popular with my family. I actually bone my turkey out. I take the bones out of the turkey except for the legs and the wings, and then I season the cavity and I fill it with the stuffing I'm going to use. A 20-pound turkey cooks in an hour and a half, an hour and 45 minutes, and it leaves it so moist and delicious. Then I also have the benefit of having the turkey carcass to make my stock with. That's gotten to be sort of the de rigeur around the house at Thanksgiving. Usually my mom comes and my sisters, and my wife's family. We have a pretty good group, usually.

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Additional Photos

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David Turin

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Harding Smith

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Lisa Kostopoulos

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Chris Bassett


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