Thanksgiving Entertaining Tips from O&B
Our chefs and event experts share their tips for a stress-free Thanksgiving
As the days grow shorter and the air gets crisp, the prospect of hosting Thanksgiving dinner can be both exciting and daunting. A time for gratitude, delicious food, and welcoming cherished guests into your home, the holiday also comes with a slew of tasks that usually require all hands on deck. From cleaning the house to kitchen duty, setting the table, and coordinating cook times, it’s a balancing act of epic proportions.
To help you create a warm, inviting and stress-free Thanksgiving celebration, we’ve turned to our chefs and events team for their top tips and time-saving strategies. Whether you’re hosting an intimate gathering or a grand feast for the whole family, allow us to share some ideas and advice that will make this Thanksgiving one you’ll be truly thankful for.
“My best advice is a little classic kitchen prep terminology: mise en place, meaning ‘put everything in its place’. Do as much of the prep work as you can in advance. Par-boil the Brussels sprouts and toss them in your marinade. Store peeled potatoes in a bowl of water in the fridge, ready to be boiled and mashed. Dice and cook the vegetables for the stuffing, then get your dish ready to pop in the oven. Leave yourself as little work as possible on the day of your dinner, so you can focus on spending time with family.” – Andrew Piccinin, District Executive Chef
Sneak in a Shortcut
“Scratch cooking is a labour of love, but if you don’t love to cook, it can add stress to an already chaotic day. Shortcuts (perhaps better referred to as ‘efficiencies’) are totally fine! Pre-diced vegetables in the grocery store are a great example. Packaged turkey gravy with some fresh sage and black pepper can be really delicious, especially if you add in a drizzle of turkey drippings. If you’re cooking for a small group, turkey breast can often be enough, and it’s far easier to cook than a whole bird. Know a local bakery or farmers’ market? Check out their day-old bread for your stuffing or peruse their selection of Thanksgiving desserts and spread the love to small businesses.” – Andrew Piccinin, District Executive Chef
Play to Your Strengths
“Focus on what you’re good at so you can enjoy the process as much as possible without worrying about the result. Personally, I’m not a fan of baking. Instead of stressing over baking something myself, I take care of the savoury dishes and ask my guests to lend a hand when it comes to the sweet stuff. A fun way I’ve found to take dessert off my list is to encourage my guests to bring their favourite pie (homemade or not). Then, we have a pie off! Winner gets to sit out on clean-up!” – April Mainprize, Manager, Event Sales
Keep Kids in Mind
“My family generally serves the same food for the kiddos that the adults are eating, but it’s always good to have some backups on hand. If I know a guest’s child is quite particular about what they eat, I’ll make sure to have something they’ll enjoy. If Frank’s daughter only eats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, no problem. I’ll make her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That’s part of playing host.” – Andrew Piccinin, District Executive Chef
Go Natural on the Tablescape
“When it comes to decorating your table, fall is the perfect time to go foraging for finds in the woods. Take your pick of birch branches, pussy willows, and try your hand at drying some wildflowers. Thanksgiving is also a time when you can showcase Canada’s fall harvest. Mini pumpkins, gourds, Brussels sprout stalks, and all kinds of fall foods make for a colourful and inexpensive centrepiece. Whichever option you choose, re-use your findings in a wreath or on your front porch all month long!” – Natalie Stanbra, National Director, Event Sales
Linen for the Win
“Don’t underestimate the humble linen napkin. Something as simple as switching up the fold or placement can change the entire look of your table without any investment. Knot the napkin and place it above each plate, either on top with a lone sprig of foliage or folded underneath horizontally or vertically. Play around! The options are endless and will change the look of your table each time.” – April Mainprize, Manager, Event Sales
Etiquette tip: As the host, a basic rule of thumb is to remove your napkin from the table and gently place it in your lap once everyone is seated and settled. This signals to your guests that the feast is ready to begin!
“If you do choose to make your own pie, there can be some fuss over which pie is best. Apple, pumpkin, and pecan are usually vying for the top spot, but why choose between three great desserts? They’re all delicious! Like my Thanksgiving spread, I like to have a full table with lots of options, then everyone can find what they like (and eat as much as their heart desires). Apple pie, pumpkin pie, lemon meringue pie, blueberry pie, shepherd’s pie, pizza pie… you can’t go wrong. I am 100% team pie!” – Trenton Pajuluoma, Chef de Cuisine at Biff’s Bistro
“One of my family’s traditions is making schnitzel instead of a big bird or some kind of roast. It’s something we adopted from an Austrian family member that we’ve really come to enjoy. Some years we do turkey schnitzel and other years veal, but ultimately it’s easy to prep ahead, and most importantly, it saves on stress. As a bonus, it takes almost no time to cook, is much less work than a full roast turkey, and leftovers are great for sandwiches the next day.” – Trenton Pajuluoma, Chef de Cuisine at Biff’s Bistro
No matter what your Thanksgiving long weekend looks like, we hope our tips can help you stay organized and carefree so you can spend less time stressing the details and more time making memories with the ones you love. In the mood to skip kitchen duties this year? Join us at select restaurants in Toronto for a variety of dine-in and takeout specials, and let us do the cooking!
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at O&B!