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How many people are normally at your Thanksgiving gatherings? A close handful of loved ones? A larger group of extended family and friends? Well what if you were having close to 500 people over for Thanksgiving? That is a mind boggling thought for most of us. However, for the Still Hopes Culinary staff, that is exactly what they plan to do here at Still Hopes on Thanksgiving Day. We talked to Andy Marchant, Still Hopes' Director of Culinary Services, to see exactly what goes into preparing for such a busy day.
How many people are we expecting for Thanksgiving here at Still Hopes?
We are expecting to have 350 residents and their guests dine with us on Thanksgiving Day. We will also have 75 staff on hand and we will prepare 100 meals for our healthcare neighborhoods.
How do you conceptualize the Thanksgiving meal? Do you stick with tried and true favorites or throw some new things in the mix?
We do a little bit of both. We have the traditional favorites and some not so traditional favorites, like cranberry pecan salad and shrimp and grits.
How far in advance do you plan the Thanksgiving meal?
We start planning for Thanksgiving about mid-October and our Chef finalizes the menu around November 1st. We also start taking Thanksgiving reservations for the Palmetto Dining Room on November 1st, which is our main dining room.
How do you know how much food you will need?
It is simple math. We estimate how many ounces of each item we think the guests and residents will enjoy. Let's look at sweet potato souffle, for example. We estimate each guest will eat about 3 ounces of sweet potato soufflé. So we take our total number of guests, which is 525, multiply that by 3 ounces and then divide by 16 (ounces in a pound) to find out how many pounds of food to prepare. In addition, we have a history of how much food we have prepared in the past. Chef Greg here at Still Hopes has been doing this for so long, it is almost surreal how close he gets to the right amount to prepare! He also knows that we will need more stuffing and gravy than Brussels sprouts! It is an art form to be sure!
What is your favorite part about preparing a meal for so many people?
This might sound corny, but for me it is like a concert at the symphony. You see every player doing their part – the front of the house staff taking reservations and spending time on the seating chart, to making sure that we do not have too many guests at a certain time and scheduling staffing with just the right amount of workers. Then, you see the Chef go over the menu, checking each detail so that nothing is missed. Next, the food and supplies start rolling in and the food prep begins! Like the orchestra musicians, each culinary staff has a vital part to play to make sure that the show goes off without a hitch. Then on the special day, it is “show” time! And when all of the preparation and practice is complete and all the players are in place and everything is ready for our guests…that is when I know that it’s going to be a great “show” and our guests will be happy with what we have prepared for them. When each player is contributing and on the same page, to me, it is like beautiful music! That is my favorite part.
What tends to be the most popular item/couple of items?
Hands down, the traditional Thanksgiving favorites are dressing and gravy, roasted turkey with cranberry sauce, and macaroni and cheese. Some things you just do not need to mess with.
Thank you for taking the time to peek into what goes on at Still Hopes during the holidays. We hope you and your loved ones have a blessed Thanksgiving.