On our Thanksgiving podcast for Chew in the Lou, we explored how our Thanksgiving dinners are a snapshot of our family’s story with handed down family recipes, stories and how our table scape evolves throughout the generations. Expanding on that, we reached out to a few local chefs and restaurateurs with a few questions about THEIR Thanksgiving traditions. First up, is our snapshot of Thanksgiving from Darren Young and Charlene Lopez-Young, owners of Filipino barbecue pop-up The Fattened Caf.
If you could only bring one dish or item to Thanksgiving dinner, what would it be?
Charlene: Lechon (roasted whole pig or roasted pork belly stuffed with scallions, lemon grass, and onions among other things). You get this amazing crispy skin that just melts in your mouth. I’d also bring the dipping sauces of course like spiced vinegar or a sweet-liver gravy dip. It doesn’t taste like liver I promise! I hate that liver taste. And one must have is rice. Steamed rice. It goes with every single thanksgiving dish!
Darren: How can I just bring one?! Can I bring two? I would bring smoked turkey. Nothing better than smoked turkey at Thanksgiving! And my famous three cheese Mac and cheese. Wait, I may also do a smoked brisket.
What memories do you have of making your first turkey?
Charlene: I’ve never made turkey. I don’t intend to, ever! I leave that to the experts.
Darren: All my life I hated turkey. For the first 20 years of my life, I always had turkey that was dry, chalky, and stringy. Then I learned that people just didn’t make it right. PRO TIP: use a thermometer and spatchcock your turkey and you will have the best turkey of your life. My life was changed when I made my first turkey. It was my early amateur BBQ days, and I built enough courage to smoke a turkey myself. I just got into smoking meats and was playing around with a spatchcocked turkey. I threw it in our smoker and when it was finished, the breast was so juicy and tender… I’ve never had turkey so moist before and flavorful no matter what part of the bird you ate. I am a forever fan.
What advice would you pass along to othersmaking or hosting their first Thanksgiving?
Charlene: Surround yourself with people you love and who love you. Food taste better when you’re enjoying it with them. Also, have 3 dishes that you know for sure are crowd killers and showstoppers. Also! It’s okay to get a store-bought pie — find a good bakery.
Darren: Watch out for potlucks!
What does Thanksgiving mean to you?
Charlene/Darren: For us both, it means family time. We have been so fortunate here in STL that even though we have no biological family members, our friends have become family to us so the definition or the meaning has not changed and probably never will. We are thankful for that.
Both Darren and Charlene are Los Angeles natives that found their way to St.Louis when Darren relocated to work locally in youth development. Darren’s love for smoking meats merged with Charlene’s passion for sharing Filipino food. What started as a small venture at a farmers’ market off Cherokee Street in 2018, is now 3 pop-ups a month at Earthbound Beer serving Filipino BBQ, vegetables, fruit and stews piled on a bed of jasmine rice. They also provide catering for large scale events, and supply their house made smoked longganisa (Filipino sausage) to over 60 local Schnucks locations.