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Thanksgiving is supposed to be about gratitude, but the real star of the holiday is what’s on the menu. 

WFPL spoke with several Louisville chefs, who shared their mouth-watering memories of favorite holiday dishes.

Travis Foxx with Foxx Catering

Travis Foxx of Foxx Catering gets ready to mix up a batch on cornbread dressing on Nov. 16, 2021.Stephanie Wolf | wfpl.org

Travis Foxx of Foxx Catering gets ready to mix up a batch on cornbread dressing on Nov. 16, 2021.

Travis Foxx, who runs Foxx Catering, thinks carbs first. For him, nothing can beat cornbread dressing. 

“We make our cornbread from scratch. And then we add our cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom soup, our chicken stock, then we add our vegetable trinity: green peppers, onions, and celery with a little bit of secret seasonings in there,” Foxx said. “And that’s our cornbread dressing.”

Foxx said he grew up with the dish, with his mom making it when he was a kid.

“And then sometimes on Sundays, after church, the family got together [and] we would have it then as well,” he said. “It’s just one of those comforting dishes that is nostalgic and reminds you of your childhood.”

Herberto “Bruce” Ucán, chef at the Mayan Cafe

Herberto “Bruce” Ucán, chef at the Mayan Cafe, poses in his restaurant in NuLu on Nov. 23, 2021.Stephanie Wolf | wfpl.org

Herberto “Bruce” Ucán, chef at the Mayan Cafe, poses in his restaurant in NuLu on Nov. 23, 2021.

Herberto “Bruce” Ucán, from the Mayan Cafe, sometimes prefers to swap the turkey for lamb or pork.

He said those meats don’t dry out as quickly, staying “moist for the next day leftovers.”

“I love Turkey too, but, you know, it’s just one of those things that just feels more like comforting,” he said.

He opts for braising the meat, so he can spend more time with family and friends during the day. As for sides, he said he likes mashed potatoes with butter, corn and cranberry sauce.

“But recently, we have been trying to do okra… just steaming really really, really fast…and then cook it right before we serve it with a little butter, little salt,” Ucán said. “Delicious. And my kids love it.”

Mostly, he’s glad to be able to share the meal with others this year, especially those he hasn’t seen in a while. 

“This pandemic has been really unbelievable, hopefully it never happens in my lifetime again.”

Jeff Potter, executive chef of 610 Magnolia

Jeff Potter, executive chef for 610 Magnolia, outside the restaurant's wine room on Nov. 18, 2021.Stephanie Wolf | wfpl.org

Jeff Potter, executive chef for 610 Magnolia, outside the restaurant’s wine room on Nov. 18, 2021.

Every year, Jeff Potter looks forward to sitting down at the Thanksgiving table and helping himself to a hearty portion of stuffing.

“And I say stuffing instead of dressing,” the executive chef of 610 Magnolia clarified. “You have to stuff the bird with all the goodness to get all that extra flavor. And it’s the only one that truly just reminds me of Thanksgiving.” 

He didn’t say this to disparage all of the other iconic Turkey Day sides: mashed potatoes and gravy, mac and cheese. Potter insisted he’s a fan, “but get an actual like stuffed bird… that’s the one that really kind of invokes the best memory of Thanksgiving to me.”

Dawn Urrutia, co-owner of Georgia’s Sweet Potato Pie Company

Stephanie Wolf | wfpl.org

Dawn Urrutia, co-owner of Georgia’s Sweet Potato Pie Company, in her new storefront off of Bardstown Rd. on Feb. 28, 2021.

Dawn Urrutia of Georgia’s Sweet Potato Pie Company is also a fan of cornbread dressing when it comes to the main course. But her favorite dessert is, hands down, pecan pie.

“I love pecan pie,” Urrutia said. “Give me anything with nuts and chocolate in it, and I am in love. That’s not a dessert that, as a child, we ate all the time. Only on special occasions.”

Plain and simple, Urrutia loves to eat, and for her, “Thanksgiving food, Christmas food… invokes love because I know, from my family, we always got together on the holidays.”

“And food was always the main player,” she said. “It just makes me think about family, makes me think about my loved ones who have transitioned to no longer [be] with us and it just warms my heart.”

Stephanie Wolf is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.