Everyone makes mistakes — and even the best chefs overcook their turkey. (Some of them even burn their front porches to the ground in the process.) Behold: the biggest Thanksgiving Day fuck-ups from some of the culinary world’s biggest names. And lest you think this is one big exercise in Turkey
schadenfreude, we also got their advice on how to fix every last error, from setting their oven on fire to forgetting to put the damn bird in it in the first place. Happy Thanksgiving!
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The Mildred in Philadelphia, PA
"Although this wasn’t me, my buddy whose house we were at tried frying a turkey for the first time. He did it from frozen and it ignited and burnt his front porch to the ground – completely. After the fireman and police left, we ate Chinese takeout."
Woodfire Grill in Atlanta, GA
" "Trying to roast a 20 pound turkey. It took forever and the bigger birds are much tougher. Short-term, I fixed it by basting it constantly to keep it moist and frankly, by using extra gravy! Long-term, I learned to use two 10 pound turkeys."
Go Fork Yourself: Thanksgiving 2012
"I once made a boneless braised turkey for the holiday, cooked in a huge clay pot with artichokes, wine and herbs. It was a stunner and a great interpretive take on turkey. 'Fuck it, lets do something different this year, everyone is bored silly with the sage stuffing/gravy/just like last year bird.' Huge mistake. It was delicious and I ate every last bite of that bitch myself for over a week. Seems everyone loves complaining about same old, same old but at end of day we all want the warm hug of tradition -- on this holiday more than most."
Delicatessen and macbar in New York, NY
“For one Thanksgiving, the heating element in the electric oven decided to catch fire and destroy our oven. We ended up going to a friend’s place and borrow their oven to cook our turkey. To pass time, we had a Pre-Thanksgiving Party with our friends until our turkey was ready.”
Restaurants: Uchiko and East Side King in Austin, Texas
"I think that the biggest mistake I always make during Thanksgiving is cooking too much food. I always have a tendency to make more food that needed --it's the nurturing chef side of me that I don't think I can fix."
Bottega in Yountville, CA
"I forgot to put the turkey in the oven. I broke the bird down into pieces. I roasted the breast and braised the legs. I made gravy out of the braising liquid. Shazam, I looked like a genius!"
Restaurant: Executive chef at
DBGB in New York City, NY
"I don't think it's that big of a mistake, but as a young cook I used to be obsessed with getting as much butter as possible into my mashed potatoes. One Thanksgiving (shortly after I began cooking professionally) I thought i would show off a little and make restaurant style mashed potato (lots of butter and cream) for my family and their friends. Of course, the potatoes my mom used were different than the restaurant ones I was used to, but I didn't have any idea how that would change the ratio of butter and cream. So, in an attempt to impress my parents with new-found kitchen skills, I ended up with a KitchenAid mixer full of broken, soggy, and tad too salty mashed potatoes that could not be served. My mom stepped in and quickly walked me through making another batch her way.Although the mashed potatoes were not the fancy version that I had idealized, they ended up being perfect for the occasion."
Perilla and Kin Shop in New York, NY
"Over-cooking the bird. Only way to fix it is use extra gravy."
Talula’s Garden and Talula’s Table in Philadelphia, PA
"Not doing a turkey. I decided to get creative and do capons. I couldn't really fix it; I just had to take flak all night from friends and family."
Salinas in New York, NY
"Since I’ve roasted many other meats in their entireties like lambs, suckling pigs and capons, I thought I could cook the entire turkey roughly measuring time instead of following instructions (20 to 25 minutes for each pound at 325-350 degrees). I thought it was done after several hours, but when I served the meat, the deep interior looked too rare and I had to reintroduce it in the oven for several more hours. So, if you don’t want to make your guests wait too long for dinner, my advice to everyone including professional chefs is to stick to the guideline above."
Marble Lane at Dream Downtown in New York, NY
“One year I pulled the mashed potatoes off too early, and the potatoes weren’t cooked properly. So when I mashed them, I put in more milk, chicken stock and continued to cook the potatoes another 15 min, then I re-mashed them and added butter. All fixed!”