Chef’s Thanksgiving

Have you ever wondered what a chef’s Thanksgiving looks like? We imagine it to be bigger, better and more awesome than we could ever imagine. So we tapped one of our favorite San Diego chefs (and April’s Chef of Chef Works), Rich Sweeney of Waypoint Public, to see what Thanksgiving is like at his house. We asked him to share his favorite tips, tricks and a recipe you can try at home.

Q: How do you approach cooking your Thanksgiving feast?

Rich Sweeney: I like to plan out the big day and then work backwards with shopping and prep needs, so that I’m not scrambling to get it all done the night before. Plus, know your crowd. If no one in your family likes dark meat, then go for a bone-in turkey breast that you can still roast to perfection without a ton of waste. Or worse — leftovers that never leave the fridge.

Q: What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving traditions?

RS: The ones where my family all pitches in to help cook with everyone bringing something to the dinner table — a side, the turkey, some yummy desserts, etc. Dinner tastes better when everyone helps. But the dishes? Well, that’s best done by anyone other than me.

Q: What are some of your favorite traditions to break?

RS: All of them! Change up how you do dinner. Add in something eclectic and interesting just for some variety! There is no right or wrong way to do Thanksgiving. It’s all about making it your own and being thankful.

Q: Can you give us five dishes you love to serve for Thanksgiving?

RS: Sure!

  1. Turkey: Because, well, turkey!
  2. Stuffing: I like making mine with cubed-up bread, some sweet and spicy Italian sausage, lots of sage and some dried cranberries. Salty and sweet! I don’t cook it inside the bird. Instead I bake it in a pan, that way you get all of the yummy crunchy bits on top!
  3. Brown sugar and ginger mashed sweet potatoes: This takes a traditional dish and gives it a little twist with some fresh ginger and a pinch of cayenne to cut through the rich, creamy potatoes and creamy, toasted marshmallow topper.
  4. Pies: You should really have at least two: pumpkin and non-pumpkin. But I like them all, so keep them coming.
  5. Gravy made with the drippings! I refer you to answer No. 1!

Q: Could you share a recipe that our readers can recreate for their Thanksgiving meal.

RS: I’m including one of my favorite salad dressing recipes. I know. It’s Thanksgiving, so why mess around with salad? But this Spiced Pumpkin Vinaigrette is killer when you toss it with some arugula and roasted veggies and finish it with some fresh pomegranate seeds and toasted pepitas! It’s seasonal and fresh, and warms you to the core while still leaving room for turkey and pies.

Spiced Pumpkin Vinaigrette
Yields 10 ounces (1 ¼ cups)


  • 1 clove garlic, rough chopped
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¼ cup pumpkin puree (canned)
  • 1 ounce apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme, stripped and chopped
  • ½ ounce ginger root, peeled and rough chopped
  • 1 ½ ounce apple cider (can substitute apple juice, but cider will give it a well-rounded flavor)
  • 1 ½ teaspoon water
  • ½ cup oil (grapeseed, canola, olive or the oil of your choice)
  • Kosher salt & ground pepper (white or black, ground), to taste

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients except for the oil. Blend on medium speed to puree, then increase the speed and stream in the oil until smooth and emulsified. Season to taste and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.

Follow Chef Sweeney at @chefrichsweeney, and his restaurant at for more!


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