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January 9, 2024

A Stress-Free Celebration

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FOOD AND FAMILY – what’s not to love about this time of year, right? For many, it’s their favorite season. And with a lot of us kept from celebrating in-person with loved ones last year because of COVID-19 restrictions, there’s heightened anticipation this year as we get together. It’s been a long time!
That can put the pressure on anyone who’s responsible for organizing a celebratory meal, so let me offer some suggestions to make it easier for everyone. Having grown up in a home where up to 150 family and friends would gather for Thanksgiving, spilling out into the garden, and since spending years as a chef and events organizer ensuring guests have a great time, I’ve learned a thing or two about serving a feast without going crazy.
Divide and conquer. You may be the host, but it isn’t all down to you. Invite everyone to be a part of the process. Decide who is going to bring which dishes, bearing in mind that some of them have family favorites they are known for. At least have folks bring something to drink—and everyone can lend a hand with the cleanup.
Plan ahead. Encourage everyone who’s coming to start on their part of the meal right away. The ongoing pandemic means that there are all kinds of shortages, so you need to get your orders in as early as possible—you won’t be able to run down to the store on Thanksgiving morning to get what you’re missing. And keep in mind that shortages mean higher prices.
Prepare in advance. Whenever you host your meal—at my house it’s on the Friday, because I’m working on Thanksgiving Day—you don’t want to be spending hours in the kitchen. Get everything ready in advance and freeze or refrigerate it, so you’re mostly just heating, assembling and preparing.
Take charge. You know what they say about too many cooks… well, with lots of people bringing their own dishes, it can get a little crowded in the kitchen. Make sure someone is acting as traffic controller.
Set a scene. Great food needs a great setting in which to enjoy it. Spend some time creating a nice environment for everyone. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but you want people to feel this is a special event.
Take a moment. Express some appreciation before you start. Ask someone to pronounce a blessing; even if you’re not religious, you can say thanks to all those who helped prepare the food. Give people an opportunity to count their blessings.
Take your time. Good times shouldn’t be hurried. Savor the food and enjoy the company. At Thanksgiving, we usually aim to eat by 2 p.m. so we’re done in time for the football, or to play games if folks are not into sports. Serve dessert a little later, when people have a bit more room to appreciate it.
Share the love. Generosity goes hand in hand with gratitude. Why not find someone to share some of those inevitable leftovers with? In our family, we usually go and take some food to the homeless the next day.
I hope these steps help. With all we’ve all been through the past 18 months, we need to be able to come together and be reminded that life is better when we are not divided.
Executive Chef Patrick Adams held positions at several exclusive resorts before founding GD Catering LLC in Lake Worth, Fla. Learn more at or on Instagram: gdcateringandevents
This article was originally published in the Winter 2021 issue of WayMaker Journal.