The heavenly aromas wafting through Margaret and Geoffrey Zakarian’s airy home transcended us to moments before a Thanksgiving meal was to be served, and our stomachs growled with eager delight. Lucky for us, this world-renowned chef restaurateur was whipping up the most incredible side dish stars on a brisk Tuesday morning, giving us hosting tips and samples along the way.
Entering the Zakarian home can be paralleled with a warm, familiar hug. Margaret Zakarian is the mastermind behind Geoffrey’s universe as President of their brand. From product development titled Pro For Home for QVC to shows, cookbooks, and an impressive roster of restaurants, Margaret and Geoffrey are culinary masters that go beyond the kitchen table.
One of the most prominent chef restaurateurs of the last 30 years, Geoffrey Zakarian has forged a culinary path for those who seek out ultimate and creative dining experiences, as well as elevating home cooking for all ages. As a host on Food Network’s Chopped, and as an Iron Chef, Zakarian also introduces approachable cooking as a co-host on Emmy-nominated daytime series, The Kitchen. When he is not creating mouthwatering cookbooks, incredible products for the home kitchen, or managing one of his many restaurants such as the The Lambs Club at The Chatwal Hotel, The National at The Benjamin Hotel in New York City and Point Royal in Hollywood, Florida, he can be found experimenting new recipes with his children and Margaret.
This Thanksgiving, we asked the Zakarians if they could create the ultimate side dishes that truly shine as the main event. Our tabletop collection, styled by Mimi Brown, paired with the delectable sides, resulted in a swoon-worthy afternoon of sampling, laughing, and learning from this inviting culinary duo.
- Kassatex: An annual Thanksgiving tradition at the Zakarian’s is:
- Margaret and Geoffrey: Before we sit, the entire group goes around the table and says what they have been thankful for over the past year. We also always kick off the day watching the Thanksgiving Day parade either in person or on TV!
- Kassatex: Most memorable Thanksgiving together.
- Margaret and Geoffrey: Last Thanksgiving was particularly memorable as we celebrated in historic The Stanford White Library inside The Lambs Club. My cousin and I went to the flower market early in the morning to gather flowers and vases, then headed straight to the restaurant to make the arrangements and style the tabletop. The culinary team prepared the most delicious meal, and without having to do any of the cooking or cleaning, we were all able to enjoy each other’s company, laughing, telling stories – all stress free.
- Kassatex: How did you meet?
- Margaret and Geoffrey: We met at a business meeting during the daytime at Indochine. All the chairs were up on the tables, lights turned bright and the staff readying the space for dinner service later that night. I was ending a meeting, and he was the next meeting coming in. We were introduced, and from that day forward, he never left my side.
- Kassatex: Your first date was:
- Margaret and Geoffrey: The next day after meeting, we had lunch at Silver Spurs diner. Although technically not a date, it was our first meal together. We had turkey sandwiches with mustard and sliced red onion. Seventeen years later, I remember it like it was yesterday.
- Kassatex: Your Thanksgiving uniform is:
- Margaret and Geoffrey: Something simple and not too fussy. With three children, I need to move and pivot on a moment’s notice. You never know what they will be up to!
- Kassatex: Table setting is key, but place cards are even more important; how do you like to place guests?
- Margaret and Geoffrey: For Thanksgiving, it is nice to seat the kids at one table, because they want to see their cousins and spend time together. For an adult dinner, boy girl boy girl is great and mixing up couples is fun. Also, you need to pepper around the table the outgoing people with new or quiet guests. However, my most important tip for a rectangular table is always have seats at the heads so that each guest has someone to the left and right. It keeps the conversation flowing. Otherwise, the people seated towards the end can feel left out of the conversation and the energy at the table never reaches maximum potential. A pet peeve is also a table that is too wide – a narrower table is always better even if it means it will be a bit crowded. Closer is better when dining, as it keeps the energy concentrated and creates a great atmosphere.
- Kassatex: Elaborate decorative centerpiece or let the bird be the piece de resistance?
- Margaret and Geoffrey: I like low centerpieces or groupings of small arrangements. It’s not practical to have large flowers in the middle of the table as then you cannot share the food nor can you talk to the person across.
- Kassatex: Most memorable dinner party seatmate?
- Margaret and Geoffrey: A great recent seatmate was Carol Norfleet from the Napa Valley Reserve. The first time I met her was at a dinner party, and she was dynamite. It was a reminder of how to be a perfect participant at a party. Outgoing, connecting people, full of life, making all the guests feel comfortable. She was all this and more. Cheers to Carol!
- Kassatex: Best dinner party ever was?
- Margaret and Geoffrey: A standout was our wedding dinner! For sure the most memorable dinner I have ever been too for all the obvious reasons, but the table decor was beyond. Marcy Blum and Preston Bailey designed the wedding – Geoffrey did the menu and the rest was history. Actually, the rest was a dance party that went through the night until very early the next morning.
- Kassatex: What are we listening to at the Zakarian’s: Your go to Spotify is:
- Margaret and Geoffrey: Frank Sinatra. Love us some Bossa Nova too….
- Kassatex: Three words to describe your holiday season with the family:
- Margaret and Geoffrey: Food. Family. Fireplace.
- Kassatex: 5 can’t live without items in your pantry during the holidays:
- Margaret and Geoffrey: Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Clove. Zakarian Olive Oil. Pine nuts. Hot Chocolate.
- Kassatex: The perfect Thanksgiving Cocktail is:
- Margaret and Geoffrey: We have been very into the smokiness of mezcal lately, so this year for Thanksgiving at home, we are mixing up a drink we serve at The National called The Cabin Upstate, made of mezcal, apple cider, lemon and smoldered rosemary. Love when the title of a drink gets you in the state of mind to drink it. Don’t we all wish we were fireside in a cabin upstate right now ?!
- Kassatex: When you can’t cook another meal: favorite neighborhood restaurant:
- Margaret and Geoffrey: Table d’ Hote.
- Kassatex: The Thanksgiving feast usually begins around what time:
- Margaret and Geoffrey: Late afternoon, around 4 PM.
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced 8 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 allspice berries 1 vanilla bean, split 1 cinnamon stick 1 piece star anise 1 orange, quartered 1 banana, sliced 3 tablespoons maple syrup 1/2 cup heavy cream 1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the sweet potatoes and cook until very soft, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes, then cover and keep warm. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the allspice, vanilla bean, cinnamon and star anise. Toast the spices, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the orange quarters and banana slices, raise the heat to medium high and cook, flipping the fruit once, until slightly brown, about 2 minutes per side. Add the maple syrup to the skillet, cover, remove from the heat and set aside to allow the flavors to meld for about 30 minutes. Squeeze the juice from the orange quarters into the syrup mixture and discard the peels. Remove and discard the spices, being careful not to lose any of the syrup. Puree the warm sweet potatoes in a food processor, slowly adding the cream and remaining 6 tablespoons butter. Add the banana-syrup mixture and puree until fully incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve warm. 1 head Butter Lettuce (if not dense, use two) 2 Tbsp Shallots, finely minced 2 Tbsp Dijon Mustard 4 Tbsp Champagne Vinegar ¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1 tbsp Tarragon, finely minced Kosher salt Fresh cracked pepper Pro For Home Containers – Extra Large with Removable Basket Remove the outer layers of the butter lettuce and remove the light green and crispy leaves from the heart for the salad. Fill the EXTRA LARGE Pro Home container (with removeable basket) ½ way with cold water, and place the lettuce into the container to wash the lettuces. Remove the basket along with the lettuces, leaving any impurities behind. Place the basket on a towel to drain. Rinse the container and wipe dry. Add the shallots, dijon mustard, and vinegar to the bottom of the container, toward the corner. Whisk the mixture until combined and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, and add the tarragon. Add the lettuces back to the container, leaving the basket behind. Season the lettuces with salt and pepper, and cover. Shake until the dressing is evenly distributed. Transfer to a salad bowl, or serve in the Pro Home Container EXTRA LARGE container.