Thanksgiving is coming up on Nov. 24, so we decided to reach out two local chefs and find out what their holiday traditions entailed – and one even gave us a side dish recipe. 

Chef Randy Lewis (Photo by Donna P. Williams)

Chef Randy Lewis, The Ashford in Brookhaven

Chef Randy Lewis, who is a founding partner and owner of a new Brookhaven restaurant called The Ashford, shared some of his favorite Thanksgiving dishes and traditions.

Lewis said Thanksgiving growing up centered around a traditional southern menu with lots of extended family. “My mother’s pecan pie, Rice & Giblet Gravy (or should I say gravy with a little rice), and Oyster Dressing to name a few,” he said.

Growing up in the San Francisco Bay area, Dungeness crab made its way onto the menu, too. Lewis said Dungeness season starts right around Thanksgiving, making a great addition to the table. For those who want to try it at home, Lewis said you can usually find live Dungeness crabs at H Mart and Buford Highway Farmers Market.

Lewis said one of the best uses of the leftover turkey carcass, especially if smoked, is to make gumbo. This after Thanksgiving tradition has turned into a Gumbo Cook-Off competition between his family members. “Not to brag, but I hold the trophy,” Lewis said.

The chef said he understands the nostalgia of a traditional Thanksgiving menu, but he’s always more excited about cooking something new.

“That could be an ingredient, technique, or a recipe I’m developing,” Lewis commented. “Take the turkey as an example; you can roast, smoke, deep fry, sous vide, grill on the Big Green Egg. Most importantly I like to keep the menu seasonal. Autumn brings us fresh truffles, citrus, fall squashes, root vegetables, pears & apples, chestnuts, and shellfish.”

Chef Justin Keith

Chef Justin Keith, South Bistro in Sandy Springs

Southern Bistro chef and owner Justin Keith said when he was growing up in South Georgia, Thanksgiving was a big deal because it combined two great things: family and food.

They lived on farmland and one tradition when he was growing up when they woke up on Thanksgiving morning was to have a dove shoot out in the fields. The large family, which included a stepbrother, stepsister, and many cousins, all took part.

After the dove shoot, his mother had a big breakfast ready with different types of breakfast casseroles, French toast, and more.

“Then the whole family just kind of spent the day cooking food, preparing food,” Keith recalled. “Everybody would be in the kitchen.”

They’d have all the Thanksgiving classics. His stepdad smoked a turkey, they’d also fry a turkey and have ham. Cornbread dressing and a bean casserole also were on the menu.

“My mom and my grandma would still make the old-school type of fruit congealed salads. So, we’d just have a big spread and then you know, we would probably have a late lunch that way,” Keith said.

After finishing lunch, everybody was ready to watch football. Then the family would return to the backyard for a family skeet shooting contest.

While the Keith family has grown up and scattered, the chef said they still gather for the hoiday.

“We still try to put emphasis on getting together on Thanksgiving because everybody’s lives are so busy and it’s difficult for us to get together,” he said. “But that’s Thanksgiving certainly, one time we make a point to for everybody to get together still.”

Keith provided the recipe for one of his favorite traditional Thanksgiving sides, colladard greens. 

Serves four to six people


  • 1 Bunch Collard Greens or 1 bag of Chopped Prepared Collards
  • 2 TBS Sesame Oil
  • 1 Yellow Onion – Julienne
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper – Julienne
  • 6 Garlic Cloves – Minced
  • 1 knob Ginger Root – Peeled & Minced
  • 2 Stalks Lemongrass – Finely Chopped
  • 2 TBS Red Curry Paste
  • ¼ Cup Fish Sauce
  • ¼ Cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 QT Chicken Stock
  • 2 Cans Coconut Milk
  • Zest & Juice of 4 limes
  • 1 Bunch Fresh Cilantro – Chopped
  • 1 Bunch Fresh Mint Leaves – Chopped
  • Salt & Pepper to taste


  • In a large stew pot, sauté garlic, ginger & lemongrass in the sesame oil until fragrant.
  • Add onion & Bell Pepper and cook until slightly tender
  • Stir in Red Curry Paste and brown sugar
  • Add collard greens, chicken stock & coconut Milk
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer.
  • Cover and cook 30-45 min until leaves are tender
  • Add Fish sauce, Lime Juice & Zest
  • Taste for seasoning and just before serving, stir in chopped cilantro & mint

Sammie Purcell is Associate Editor at Rough Draft Atlanta.

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.