In the Nugget kitchen, preparations for the annual Thanksgiving feed are well under way with 12-16 turkeys at a time roasting in their ovens.
Executive Chef David Sellars and Sou Chef Scott Brown are roasting about 30 turkeys a day to get ready for what they expect will be 800 hungry visitors ranging from the down and out and the homeless to lonely people who just don’t have family around for the holidays.
Owner Dean DeLullo said everyone is welcome.
“Those who don’t have family have family here,” he said.
Sellars said it’s a team effort with FISH providing the turkeys donated by folks in the community to Nugget suppliers like Sisco Foods, U.S. Foods and others contributing.
“We’ve got to pull together to feed 800 people,” Sellars said.
Everything else is provided by volunteers DeLullo said includes the members of his family and friends from as far away as Phoenix.
He said this is the free Thanksgiving feast’s 60th year, started by the Carson Nugget’s first owner Dick Graves in 1957.
“It’s all about family and all about the community,” he said.
The Nugget donates all the labor to prepare and serve the feast.
“I’ve owned the casino three years and have no plans to change that,” DeLullo said. “It’s always going to be here.”
He said the only Nugget tradition that predates the Thanksgiving feast is the “Awful Awful” hamburger Graves created when he opened in 1954. He said that isn’t going away either.
Before the Nugget opens its doors to the public on Thursday, FISH will take more than 200 baskets to those people – mostly seniors – who can’t make it down to the Nugget so they too have Thanksgiving dinner.
Jim Peckham of FISH was outside collecting donated turkeys and money to cover the cost of the event from a steady stream of Carson residents arriving with donations. He said FISH is serving about 7,500 people now, down from the 10,000 the organization was handling at the height of the recession.
“We provide a hand up, not a hand out to people in need,” he said.
Sellars said on Thanksgiving Day, they will serve about 1,300 pounds of turkey, 200 pounds of stuffing and potatoes and about 90 pies.
Thanksgiving Day, he said, starts about 3 a.m. and, even with all the preparations, it’s a big job getting the food to table. But it’s a job he and Brown can handle. With knife in hand, he gave a demonstration, breaking down a 16-pound bird into serving pieces in a minute and 30 seconds.
To get everything ready for that day, he said, they have to start all the preparations a week ahead.
“We have a week to prepare for it and about two hours to blow it out,” he said. “Then it’s all over until next year.”