If you aren’t familiar with Brooklyn chef Lawrence Page yet, you should be. He’s the owner of the legendary soul food restaurant Pink Teacup (his sophomore restaurant Pink Teacup Villa is now open in Miami Beach as well) and stars in WE TV reality show Hustle & Soul.
On top of that, he’s been featured on The Steve Harvey Show, Good Morning America and CBS NYC’s morning show. While Page has already reached a level of success many chefs dream of, his plan for world domination is just beginning. Franchises and even movies are in the future, so be prepared to see his face more and more.
Being that Thanksgiving is the Super Bowl for chefs, we got an opportunity to talk to Page about his intense and highly unusual plans: Southern sushi Thanksgiving dinner, anyone?
While Page admits that the holiday is stressful (I think we can all agree on that), he shared why it’s so important to him and what traditions he plans to continue as the years go on. He also revealed what’s on his Thanksgiving menu this year, why you need to deep-fry your turkey and how you can survive the day of hosting and nonstop cooking (hint: bring out the bottles).
Learn more about chef Lawrence Page and his holiday plans in our Q&A below.
Thanksgiving & Co.: What does a typical Thanksgiving look like for you and your family?
Chef Lawrence Page: Stress.
TG: That was not the answer we were expecting.
CLP: [Laughing] I know. I know. You get together with your entire family that you haven’t seen. We all come together every year and, you know, the conversation is happening and there’s happiness. But for me, it’s the preparation and cooking nonstop. Everybody has different taste buds, so I have to prepare everything for every different person in my family with a food personality.
TG: Are you always the chef for Thanksgiving?
CLP: Before I was the chef, my mom cooked it. Now that I became a chef, I do all the cooking.
TG: How many people are invited?
CLP: 30 people come.
TG: Is it pretty traditional for you or do you get a little wild with Thanksgiving dinner?
CLP: Well, it’s interesting because I do [get a little wild]. It’s the typical Thanksgiving staples, but now that some of my family members have married into different nationalities, I get the phone call, “Oh, my girlfriend is Italian. So, you think you can do a lasagna?” So now I have to add other things to the menu.
TG: What would you say, aside from lasagna, is the weirdest thing you’ve added to your menu?
CLP: It’s what I’m going to add to the menu this year. I have an uncle who is married to someone who’s Asian, so now he’s asking for sushi, and I’ve never done that for Thanksgiving. But I said, “No problem. We’ll make sure it’s there.” I’m probably going to do a Southern sushi. I’m going to flip it up a little bit. It’s going to be very nice. It’s going to be my daring project that I have to work on this year.
TG:So, what are your favorite dishes to cook for Thanksgiving?
CLP: Oh, you got to have deep-fried turkey. That’s just the number one thing that I want — deep fried turkey. And I have to have the ham, the honey-baked ham. But [deep-fried turkey] is the way to go because it keeps the juices in and that’s the thing. When you bake it, you’re losing all the juices. Some people try to put it in a plastic bag and that saves [the juices], but not all the way. After a couple of hours, it still dries up. But something about that oil hitting the breast — it just keeps that juicy flavor in. You know, like a chicken fry. It has that flavor that pops in your mouth and especially if you do it right. You have to coat it right with flour. That’s the key to it. You have to add a lot of flour and cook it slowly.
TG: How long does it take to cook? Is it quicker than an oven?
CLP: Yeah, of course. With a deep fryer, I can get it done within an hour, 45 minutes to an hour. It depends on the size of the turkey. If you have a 45–55-pound turkey, it’ll take you an hour.
TG: Are there any Thanksgiving dishes that you loathe?
CLP: Well, I’m from the South. A Southern thing that everybody likes to eat — and it’s debatable — but for me, I’m not cooking chitlins. Everybody in my family is from the South and they love chitlins. But I refuse to cook them because it stinks up the entire house and it’s very hard to get that smell out.
TG: We have to ask — are you team apple pie or team pumpkin pie?
CLP: Apple pie is the good ol’ American dessert. There’s nothing like fresh apples baked, you know? Put the brown sugar on there. I mean, pumpkin pie — I like it. But apple pie is the way to go.
TG: What are your biggest tips for Thanksgiving hosts?
CLP: Take your time in the kitchen and make sure your food is always done. Make sure it’s not overcooked and make sure it’s not undercooked. Try to focus as much as you can while you’re working. Just put the iPad down, have your wine, and listen to your favorite song. Really, really focus hard when you’re hosting because you want to knock [your guests’] socks off. You want them to be able to say, “Wow, I can’t believe you prepared all this.” You’re always looking for that pat on the back when it comes to hosting. I would also prepare a beautiful cocktail to go along with it, something very unique and different — a Thanksgiving cocktail. Pumpkin martini or something like that.
TG: We love your advice about the wine. We will be stocked with wine for the day.
CLP: They say a happy cook is half the food, you know what I mean? You cook with your soul and your feelings, so it just adds to it.
TG: You said to listen to music too. What’s on your Thanksgiving playlist?
CLP: I like listening to Barry White. I like listening to Whitney Houston. I’m an oldies guy, you know? I like listening to Al Green. Oldies but goodies hits.
TG: What does Thanksgiving mean to you?
CLP: A spiritual family connection and giving. I like to really give back. That’s why I love to be in the kitchen. Thanksgiving is a day when everybody puts all their problems away and all their stresses and all the things they have going on in the world. It’s the one time where you come to the table and you forget every problem you have with that person, or your boss, or your girlfriend, or your husband that you just divorced or your wife, or whomever. It’s the day when you’re able to just let every problem go and have fun and eat — eat and laugh, eat and laugh, eat and laugh. It’s the one day when we have to all come together and enjoy. It’s Thanksgiving.
TG: Does your family have any traditions that you do while you’re all together?
CLP: My mom says we always have to hold hands and pray no matter what. And that’s a tradition — that we always have to be there on Thanksgiving. Her biggest thing is that you never know who’s not going to be at the table next year, so enjoy the year that you have together.
TG: What about you? Is there anything you do every year?
CLP: For years, I’ve always been giving away turkeys, like to United Cerebral Palsy. I always give a lot of turkeys to them. I go to the families and I hand out turkeys to them and I show up at their doorstep. I usually get about like 200 to 300 turkeys and I try to find help and we just pick organizations and we just drop those turkeys off.
TG: What are you most thankful for this year?
CLP: I am thankful for having my new television show Hustle & Soul, and me getting be able to be a chef in a TV show. I’m very thankful for that.
TG: Anything else you can tell us about Hustle & Soul season 3?
CLP: It’s really going to showcase a lot of expertise in cooking. I have a beautiful restaurant in Miami — I’m here right now — 8,000 square feet so I’m able to really showcase more dishes as a chef and experiment with the customers and just have a good time with food now. I’m getting into food porn a lot, that’s really my thing right now. So, I’m in the kitchen trying different things and trying to push, push, push myself to the next level. Food porn is the way to go, so you’ll catch a lot of that this year in Hustle & Soul.