(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Hours of preparation leads to a family dinner table filled with Thanksgiving traditions.

Stress levels are usually high to make sure that each course of the meal is perfect. But there always seems to be a last-minute disaster that could derail the perfect dinner. 

Omar Salinas, Texas State Technical College’s production chef in the cafe at the Sweetwater campus, said it does not have to be a stressful time in the kitchen.

Salinas said the biggest way to avoid a food disaster is to shop early and prepare dishes ahead of time. But there is also one important task to do before any dish is started.

“You need to make sure to thaw out the turkey according to the instructions provided,” he said. “That is the most important thing to remember Thanksgiving week.”

While Salinas recommends a fresh turkey because they cook better, he knows that people have different tastes and styles of cooking. He has seen the difference in tastes on weekdays at TSTC when students come in for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“I know there are many ways to prepare a turkey, but I prefer baking the turkey,” he said. “There is something about smelling a turkey roasting in the oven.”

Salinas said no matter how the turkey is prepared, you have to remember to read.

“Follow the cooking instructions provided on the label,” he said. “You need to cook it for so long for each pound. If it goes longer, the turkey will become dry.”

Salinas said he likes to offer families one simple tip.

“I would prepare as many dishes as possible the day before — especially all of your cold dishes, including the salad,” he said.

The many casseroles, featuring corn, green beans and sweet potatoes, can be prepared ahead of time and cooked on serving day.

“Anything you can, prepare it,” he said. “If you can put something in the refrigerator and pull it out the next day, it will save you a lot of time.”

Salinas and his staff used his advice in preparing the Thanksgiving lunch served to students, faculty and staff on Wednesday, Nov. 16. He was excited to see everyone enjoy the turkey, ham and side dishes as a group.

“This was our first Thanksgiving meal on campus since 2019,” he said. “We wanted to offer everyone a little taste of home while being able to celebrate the holiday.”

That meal included Salinas’ favorite side dish.

“I like to make the dressing at home for my family,” he said. “I think dressing brings everything together for the meal.”

Salinas was also pleased to see staff members help by serving students.

“This gets everyone on campus involved and shows their appreciation for our students,” he said.

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