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Thanksgiving entertaining advice from Jeremiah Tower

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Jeremiah Tower at home in Mérida in 2014. The chef has bought and restored several homes here. Photo: Associated Press

Thanksgiving is just way too formal, says Jeremiah Tower, Yucatán’s most famous expat.

The famed American chef surprised Food & Wine magazine with that remark.

Anyone who has seen the documentary “The Last Magnificent” knows that a young Jeremiah Tower spent his childhood whose indifferent parents allowed him to feast alone on aspic, baba au rhum and croquembouche.

After Harvard, Tower went on to become the father of California cuisine, first as a chef at Chez Panisse, and later at his own San Francisco hot spot, Stars.

The Associated Press visited Jeremiah Tower in Mérida in 2014. Photo: AP

“I think the occasion is wonderful,” he tells Food & Wine while on the phone from his home in Mérida, adding, “It’s way too much work, and then the people who did all the work have been around food for so long they don’t want to eat. And the ones who haven’t eat way too much and then lie around the living room groaning. I mean, what kind of party is that?”

If you’re not lining up at a buffet on Thursday, Dec. 23, perhaps you’re hosting a crowd at home. For you, here’s his advice for tweaking the holiday:

Make the dinner longer, yet more casual. Plan for walking breaks. 

Deconstruct the holiday, says Tower. “The most successful Thanksgiving I’ve ever been to is the one I did in Berkeley, I planned the menu and got it all prepared and did everything, but [for] the final touches—heating it up and serving it—we all took turns. Between courses, people got up and “walked around for 15 minutes, or went for a swim or something, so it took all day.”

A young Jeremiah Tower is depicted on a cruise ship, ignored by his parents but with the means to explore the Queen Mary’s elaborate menu, where foods in aspic delighted him. Photo: Tribeca Film Festival

Delegate courses (and non-cooking tasks) to guests. 

Break up the meal into courses, and then, in advance, delegate heating and serving duties to guests. “I would plate the first course and pass that around, and then say, you go heat up the creamed onions, put them in the oven, take them out in ten minutes, I’m the host, I’m sitting having my glass of wine.”

Turn the whole house into a progressive sort of dining room. Have the desserts on display the living room (“so you don’t have to think about them”), and set up a bar where guests can help themselves. Tower might plate a first course—smoked salmon, perhaps—to be followed by his childhood favorite, creamed onions and jumbo lump crab meat gratin. The main course—he prefers goose to turkey—can be in a central buffet in the kitchen. Bonus tip: Serve the gravy out of a thermos to keep it warm.

Read the entire story here.

“Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent” is now available via CNN on demand and CNNgo, and encores on TV 9 p.m. Saturday and 2 a.m. Sunday, Eastern Time.

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