How To Host Your Family For Thanksgiving And Succeed

Above: Critically acclaimed Chef Mike Ward
Above: Critically acclaimed Chef Mike Ward

As we enter the fall season, we also enter family gathering season. That’s right, the next few months will be filled with family get-togethers including Canadian Thanksgiving (October 12th) and American Thanksgiving (November 26th). In years past, you have travelled home for the weekend to gorge yourself on your mother’s cooking but what if you changed that tradition this year? What if you cooked? This is the perfect compromise if you are partnered and can’t decide whose parents to spend the holiday weekend with. Have no fear; this may be your first time cooking for your parents, and for that matter, your partner’s parents but you can win them over with good food. This years’ Thanksgiving family meal could be a disaster or it could be your saving grace.

We met up with Chef Mike Ward to help us get through the prep and cooking for the weekend with minimal collateral damage. Although Chef Mike Ward has cooked for many celebrities, including Julia Roberts and Tom Cruise, it is important to note that he has also worked in many acclaimed and high-end restaurants (read also as high stress) in Canada and Australia. We figured there was no one better chef to guide you through this high stress weekend than Chef Mike Ward, plus he now has a YouTube channel to make the whole process even easier. Through Mike’s guidance we picked three simple recipes to create the perfect meal for your Thanksgiving weekend: The Perfect Roast Chicken (way easier than cooking a whole turkey), Brussel Sprouts, Chorizo & Pine Nuts (brussel sprouts are the new kale apparently), and finally, Cheese, Garlic & Thyme Potato Gratin. All three recipes are dead simple and delicious. And don’t worry, we won’t even suggest you bake dessert, following Mike’s great tips and buy the dessert from your favourite local bakery.

AmongMen: What is your number one tip or trick for someone cooking his or her first family dinner at home?
Mike Ward: The number one thing I like to preach when cooking for guests at home has nothing to do with food. When we think about the best dining experiences we’ve had with family, friends at home or in restaurants, food is only a small percentage of the total memory. The ambience and energy of the space and of course the company is what’s remembered. Dim the lights, put on music and have plenty of cocktails and wine on the ready. People easily overlook moderate food. But if they’re sitting there all night with an empty wine glass under laundromat lighting you can guarantee they’re not leaving with fond memories

AM: Any cheats you can get away with and no one notice?
MW: Most decent restaurants deliver nowadays. I’m not at all averse to offsetting home cooking with delivery. We all live busy lives, why not let the pros help us?! Grab a good quality roasted chicken on the way home and make a salad to go with… Or grill some beautiful fish and pick up a couple of good quality fresh made salads. Your friends and family come over to see you… not to have you yell at them from the kitchen all night…Hide the containers; you might even get away with calling it your own.

AM: What is your favourite dish to cook for a family dinner?
MW: My favorite family meals are typically roasts. There’s something magical about throwing a whole side of salmon, or lamb shoulder, or prime rib in the oven along with a few in-season veggies, cracking a big bottle of red and letting the oven do all the work. For me the smell of a roast triggers warm memories of childhood. I like to think I’m creating similar memories for my kids.

Christian Dare

Christian Dare spent much of his formative years working in the fashion industry as a Visual Manager before pursuing a Masters’ Degree in Design. He is the Principal at Christian Dare Creative, the co-founder of Stylist Box and runs a successful men’s lifestyle blog, Christian Dare Edited,focusing on menswear, interior design and craft cocktails. You can find him online at www.christiandareedited.com or follow him on Twitter @christiandare but he is more fun on Instagram christian_dare. 

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