Skip to Navigation Skip to Content

Chefs Talk Turkey: A Thanksgiving Tell-All

We asked, they answered. Five SF chefs tell us what to buy, what to bring, when to brine and what to eat the morning after.

Tim Luym, chef/owner, Poleng Lounge

You’re invited to a potluck Thanksgiving: what would you bring?
I would bring rice. I can eat rie with anything and most people don’t serve rice with turkey for Thanksgiving. But imagine: rice, turkey, gravy, stuffing, cran! Better than potatoes.

If you were short on time and it had to be store-bought?

Country Crockers [sic] Mac and Cheese.
One dish from your childhood Thanksgiving that should go on the wall of shame? One dish that you’ll pass on to future generations? My sister’s microwave brownies. The recipe called for baking soda and she used the one in the fridge—yup, the one used to absorb odors. I snuck in the first bite before it was served, luckily. I remember then being dark purple and tasting of fish, meat and goblins. In redemption, the dish to pass on is her honey-lemon-herb-roasted game hen. It’s a perfect substitute for a big turkey, especially for smaller parties.

To brine, or not to brine?
Brine and lethal injection.

What or where will we find you eating the day after Thanksgiving?
Balut, Spam or the Pho Challenge at Pho Garden.

Jamie Lauren, executive chef, Absinthe

You’re invited to a potluck Thanksgiving: what would you bring?
Would absolutely be the green bean casserole. Not gonna lie, I still make that every Thanksgiving.

One dish from your childhood Thanksgiving that should go on the wall of shame? One dish that you’ll pass on to future generations?
My mom actually always made pretty decent Thanksgiving dinners, so I can't really complain. My favorite was the onion dip and potato chips (I think a white trash pattern is beginning to emerge here...) I still use her "secret" turkey rub...so I'd probably pass that down, if I wanted kids...but um, yeah, no.

To brine, or not to brine?
To inject with brine!

What or where will we find you eating the day after Thanksgiving?
You will find me at work probably eating something involving tortillas that one of my cooks made for staff meal. I am not a leftover person.

Tom McNaughton, executive chef, Flour + Water

You’re invited to a potluck Thanksgiving: what would you bring?
I would have to say stuffing and some homemade cranberry jam. I love a good stuffing and everybody likes it a different way. Or maybe a really good gratin.

If you were short on time and it had to be store-bought?
If it had to be store bought I would go to Bi Rite and talk to Morgan (Maki, butcher) and get whatever cured meats he has going on in the back and some pickled squash to go with them.

One dish from your childhood Thanksgiving that should go on the wall of shame?
I hate to say it but the turkey. It was always reaching football leather territory.

One dish that you’ll pass on to future generations?
My mom’s stuffing.

To brine, or not to brine?
When in doubt, brine.

What or where will we find you eating the day after Thanksgiving?
The restaurant is open the day after so it will be family meal on the community table at 4:30. We are closing the restaurant on Thanksgiving, cooking there and setting up one long table. I am sure we will have plenty of leftovers for sandos.

Jessica Boncutter, chef/owner, Bar Jules

You’re invited to a potluck Thanksgiving: what would you bring? I would bring mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes—anything mashed, since you can throw some foil on it and it stays pretty nice.

If you were short on time and it had to be store-bought? I like that canned cranberry stuff and store-bought pumpkin pie with the fake whipped cream from the can.

To brine, or not to brine?

Always brine

One dish from a Thanksgiving past that should go on the wall of shame?
One year I was in Colorado for Thanksgiving with my whole family and I had just gotten back from a year at the River Cafe in London. I wanted to show off what I had learned so I told everyone we were not having a traditional Thanksgiving and I would be making pork braised in vinegar and bay, risotto, etc. When I went to deglaze the pork the red wine vinegar I was using to deglaze with exploded and splattered all over the white walls all the way up to the ceiling! it was like a science project gone wrong. They still don't let me cook Thanksgiving dinner 9 frickin’ years later!

What or where will we find you eating the day after Thanksgiving?
I eat healthy hippie food after all that Thanksgiving crap. Seaweed salad with seeds/sprouts and brown rice and lemon water. Detox.

Richie Nakano, chef, Nopa

You’re invited to a potluck Thanksgiving: what would you bring? If it’s with friends that cook, I’m bringing jellied cranberry sauce. Out of the can. Because it’s kinda awesome. I’d tell them it was a recipe from L20.

One dish from a Thanksgiving past that should go on the wall of shame? Our neighbors would make a chestnut, pork sausage and oyster stuffing that tasted worse than it sounds, and it would more or less ruin the entire turkey. We had 3 Thanksgivings in a row at their house.

To brine, or not to brine?
Brine. You must brine. Hopefully in Bates and Schmidt apple juice.

What or where will we find you eating the day after Thanksgiving?
The day after Thanksgiving I’ll be sneaking into Flour and Water late night for a pizza and a pasta. Anything but leftovers.