Gustavo Novoa's Thanksgiving rush begins at midnight.
Carson Nugget casino's executive pastry chef, along with eight other cooks, will pound out the traditional holiday pastries for about 15 hours straight.
"We're baking pumpkin pies, apple pies, pecan pies and also mincemeat pies, and this is all for the free food," Novoa said Tuesday in the Nugget's main kitchen. "We'll have 400 pies total."
A 48-year tradition, the Nugget's free Thanksgiving meal will be Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the coffee shop. After 3 p.m., there is a charge.
Bully's Sports Bar and Grill will also serve the needy and hungry this year, with a Thanksgiving feast open to the public in Carson City.
"Everyone is welcome," said Arlin Tolbert, general manager for the Carson City Bully's. "This is Bully's way of saying thanks."
Upstairs in the Nugget bakery, the hint of pumpkin spice is in the air. Finished pumpkin pies are uniformly stacked on metal racks. Novoa pours pecan pie filling into a pie crust. He sprinkles crumbled pecans over the top and then pats it like a well-behaved child. Voila! - one pecan pie out of 450. All these pies are just for the holiday to-go orders.
A bell rings. Novoa retrieves two pans of bread pudding from a multi-tiered oven. Those are for the buffet. Novoa will join his wife, Susana, and their two daughters, Amarys, 12, and Noemy, 11, at the buffet. As the executive baker, he may have a difficult time getting away.
"Yes, I have to make time," he said.
The Thanksgiving buffet is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Kelly Brant, director of casino marketing, anticipates 2,300 people will eat here, and 1,900 people for free. They have a free meal on Christmas also, but Thanksgiving has the biggest turnout.
Executive Sous Chef Sal Bracamontes rattled off the components of the Thanksgiving meal like it was just a feast for four. To him, cooking for four isn't that different than cooking for 40.
"We're also doing apple dressing and vegetables," Bracamontes said while separating the yams from the yam juice. "It's all homemade."
The yam juice will get an "upgrade" with honey, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar, the chef said. About 28 employees will work Thursday in the buffet and coffee shop.
"Even though we get paid for doing it, if we have one person who really needs it, it makes my day," Bracamontes said.
Brant said the Nugget has served free meals during the holidays since the Adams family bought the casino about 48 years ago.
Bully's Sports Bar and Grill, 3530 N. Carson St., will also serve its first free meal for all families Thursday from noon to 4 p.m. Tolbert said Tuesday they have enough food to feed about 500 people. About 17 volunteers will help serve 160 pounds of turkey and other side dishes.
Bully's also will serve free meals at its other two locations on Robb Drive in Reno and Pyramid Way in Sparks.
What it takes:
A dozen cooks are working 48 hours nonstop on the meal, which includes: 2,800 pounds of turkey, about 400 large cans of yams, 20 gallons of cranberries, 80 gallons of giblet gravy and about 600 pounds of mashed potatoes
Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.