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Nugget serves its Thanksgiving day dinner for one and all
by Krystal Bick
Nov 26, 2008 | 938 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Krystal Bick - Michael Norton, executive chef at John Ascuaga’s Nugget, helps prepare pumpkin pies for the Thanksgiving dinners both at the casino and at St. Vincent’s Dining Hall.
Tribune/Krystal Bick - Michael Norton, executive chef at John Ascuaga’s Nugget, helps prepare pumpkin pies for the Thanksgiving dinners both at the casino and at St. Vincent’s Dining Hall.
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Thursday brings tidings of oven-roasted turkey, homemade cranberry sauce and the promise of family and friends.

And the staff at John Ascuaga’s Nugget is making sure no one is left out.

As part of its 47th annual Thanksgiving benefit dinner at St. Vincent’s Dining Room located at 325 Valley Road near downtown Reno, the Nugget is kicking off another large feast, expecting to feed at least 1,000 needy people, no questions asked.

Michael Traum, spokesman for the Nugget, confirmed expectations of at least a 20 percent increase from last year’s 800 meals served, citing recent economic hardships as the cause.

“This is a very important event to the Ascuagas,” Traum said, mentioning hotel owner John Ascuaga’s devotion to giving back to those less fortunate and the very excitement that comes with major holidays around the casino alone.

Back in the main kitchen at the Nugget, that same excitement is building.

Pie racks are full. Bread is baking. And the turkeys are coming in.

“We just got about 3,000 pounds of turkey delivered,” executive chef Michael Norton said with a laugh, explaining that he is in charge of all Thanksgiving dinners being served both at the casino and at St. Vincent’s. “Everything is coming together the next couple of days.”

Actually, Norton explained, the turkeys were ordered as far back as August with most recent preparations having started Monday and Tuesday.

“We’re going to be rocking,” Traum said, both men aware of the kind of chaos that cooking for that many people entails.

And the fun is just beginning.

Serving up a menu of both turkey and ham, with vegetables, baked rolls, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, yams and, of course, pumpkin pie, Norton prides himself in the fresh quality they will be serving, as most dishes will be cooked or prepared on Thursday.

“This is the same food that will be served here at the Nugget, coming from the same pumpkin pie to the same fresh potatoes” Norton said, adding that there are no menu changes and guests at St. Vincent’s will be given rolled silverware to dine with just diners at the Nugget. “We want everything as fresh as possible. That’s always the goal.”

Inside the kitchen, Norton references the some 100 pumpkin pies that will be delivered at St. Vincent’s along with 120 dozen baked rolls and more than 300 pounds of potatoes.

With a staff of about 120, it comes as no surprise that Norton has a graveyard crew, preparing through the night, before Thursday’s exhausting go-time shift, starting at 3 a.m.

A few sleepless nights and one day of feasting later, though, and Norton still agrees: It’s worth it every year.

“Being able to see and help the people in need,” Norton said, “is what the whole premise of Thanksgiving is all about.”

For more information, call St. Vincent’s at 322-7073.
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