Ever wonder what a top tier, Los Angeles based Food Stylist does to prepare the perfect Thanksgiving table spread? Look no further – we had the pleasure of chatting with food stylist, chef & entrepreneur, Max Rappaport. He says, “Growing up, I owned the Thanksgiving table – that was my thing. My motto is go big, or go bigger.” Read on for the royal rules of what to do if you’re the host, or the guest – Max is ready to spill the tea.
RULE #1 – ASK YOURSELF THE HARD QUESTIONS
Like, “Am I really going to bake a pie from scratch?” Max bluntly states, “If you’re going to someone else’s Thanksgiving, you better bring a bomb-ass dish. I mean, this shouldn’t be the first time you’re baking a pie – you know what I mean?”
We do. That’s why he recommends always asking the host what you can bring to the table (literally) and if you have the option, bring dessert – it’s something delicious everyone will love. And if you had to pick it up at Whole Foods bakery on the way? Your guests should be thankful it wasn’t burnt.
RULE #2 – ALWAYS HAVE CORNBREAD ON THE TABLE
There’s no such thing as TOO many corn dishes on Thanksgiving. According to Max, it’s his favorite thing to make on the holiday – “Always have a corn dish on the table. Corn Bread. Corn Pudding. Optional (but totally not optional) honey butter for the spread. My favorite recipe is from ChefSteps, here.”
RULE #3 – DECOR IS IMPORTANT, BUT NOT MORE IMPORTANT THEN THE FOOD
As a stylist for commercial photoshoots, celebrity advertising and premium chef’s cookbook looks – Max knows his way around the table scene, and he isn’t shy to say that a tasteful decoration or two goes a long way with guests. “Holidays are supposed to be celebrated – there’s something that feels formal and festive about having a nice table setting, assigned seats, cute place cards with your guests’ names – it’s easy, and fun!” Just know that at the end of the night, they likely won’t remember where they sat at dinner, but they WILL remember if there was cornbread… or not.
RULE #4 – DON’T OVERCOOK THE TURKEY
Yes, you have to have a turkey – just don’t overcook it. Max says, “Whoever is still putting their turkey in the oven for four hours is doing it wrong!” This tip was NEWS to us. The truth is, different parts of the turkey cook at different rates & temperatures – so although it isn’t picturesque to cook the turkey legs alone – Max says it’s actually KEY to cooking a perfect main course. He suggests investing in a poultry thermometer (his favorite here) to ensure each part of the turkey is at the right temp – that’s 150 degrees for breast, and 175 degrees for the legs. Ta da, a tasteful turkey (or Tof-urkey, if that’s your thing).
RULE #5 – SERVE A SIGNATURE COCKTAIL
There’s something about autumn leaves on the ground, or if you’re in LA for TG – the sun shining at a cool 72 degrees – that invites a seasonal cocktail to the table. Max loves to serve a red wine like Bordeaux with his favorite TG dishes (and we couldn’t agree more) BUT there is also a fun cocktail option always on the menu – this year, try Max’s go-to cheeky “Penicillin” recipe from Sasha Petrask’s book, Regarding Cocktails. Here’s how to play bartender:
What You’ll Need:
2 oz blended Scotch
¾ oz fresh lemon juice
⅜ oz ginger syrup
⅜ oz honey syrup
Splash of Islay whisley
How to Serve:
Combine liquor & ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until drink is extra chilled. Serve into short cocktail glasses with ice. Float the splash of whiskey on top and extra points if you garnish with a piece of candied ginger 😉
Last but not least, Max has one secret stylist tip that both timeless cooks & pseudo-chefs can do to add a special **homestyle** touch to any holiday dinner – FRESH WHIPPED CREAM. Max encourages, “It’s easier than you think! You simply pour heavy whipping cream into a bowl, and whisk it by hand – no heavy machinery necessary. It’s a nice, quick way to dress up your store bought pie.” And your secret is safe with us 😉