Behind the scenes of Mizzou’s Thanksgiving feast

Chef Eric Cartwright and team work tirelessly to ensure the return of this campus tradition each year.

photo of a thanksgiving meal spread out on a table

Nov. 9, 2021
Contact: Deidra Ashley,
ashleyde@missouri.edu

If you can’t wait until Thanksgiving Day to get your hands on some turkey, stuffing or pumpkin pie, Campus Dining Services (CDS) has you covered. Their annual Thanksgiving dinner will return to select dining locations Wednesday, Nov. 17.

For the past 17 years, CDS Executive Chef Eric Cartwright and team of about 15 people put in countless hours to prepare the Thanksgiving spread for students at restaurants across campus, though the tradition runs much longer. This year’s feast will be served at Plaza 900, The Mark on 5th and 1839 Kitchen at Southwest.

portrait of chef eric

Eric Cartwright

Setting the table

Preparations for the meal begin in early October when the menu is set. Although turkey is at the center of it, there are options to fit nearly all dietary restrictions.

“The core of the menu has never changed,” Cartwright said. “The current version features recipes we’ve been using for 13 or 14 years now — I mean, don't mess with a good thing.”

While the menu might be easy to decide upon, the real turkey trot begins the weekend before the event.

Clint Eastin, a sous chef at the Restaurants at Southwest, has been with CDS for 18 years – or, as he puts it, 37 semesters. Eastin is no stranger to CDS’s Thanksgiving meal and knows firsthand the level of preparation and work it takes to make the dinner a success.

“I am in constant communication with my chefs,” he said. “It can sometimes get a little hectic.”

This year, the group is preparing to serve:

  • 500 pounds of boneless turkey breast
  • 700 pounds of potatoes for mashed potatoes
  • 1,200 pieces of pie
  • 1,800 dinner rolls
New traditions

It takes dozens of Tigers to bring this tradition to the table year after year, but it’s all done for the love of food and the students.

“All of the locations put in a lot of effort into putting out good, quality products — as good as what you would get at home,” Cartwright said.

This effort has not been lost on students, especially international students whose first Thanksgiving experience is oftentimes with CDS’s feast.

“I got the Thanksgiving meal at Plaza 900 last year,” said graduate international student Apaala Basak. “It was a great experience celebrating an American holiday, and we liked the food so much that we decided to cook our own little Thanksgiving dinner the following weekend.”

If you’re also inspired to try pulling off a DIY Thanksgiving feast, these fan-favorite recipes from Chef Eric and team are a great place to start:

Meals will be available Wednesday, Nov. 17 at:
  • Plaza 900 from 4:30 to 8 p.m.
  • The 1839 Kitchen at Southwest from 4 to 7:30 p.m.
  • The Mark on 5th from 5 to 7:30 p.m.

 

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