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Cook Up a Memorable Holiday

Tips and recipes from Chef Joel Chesebro

Written by Sally Finder Weepie

As the corporate chef at Sub-Zero and Wolf, Joel Chesebro shares his culinary talents, giving cooking demonstrations at the Bakke Center on the company campus near Madison, Wisconsin. He also is a master home entertainer who makes Christmas dinner happen at his in-laws’ home in Colorado. “Good cooking is good cooking, no matter what kitchen you’re working in,” Chesebro says. Here he offers tips to help make your holiday meal memorable, plus some amazing recipes.

1. Start with good sourcing

“Go to a store or winter farmer’s market that has amazing produce,” says Chesebro, who loves Whole Foods in Boulder for culinary inspiration. “The seafood they bring in for the holiday, a great cheese, or colorful produce might inspire me,” he says. “Then I build the meal from those ingredients.”

2. Tap the power of planning

“I like to prep some things ahead of time to reduce the workload and stress on the day of the meal,” Chesebro says. “I put things in containers, label them, and organize them in the refrigerator so everything makes sense and is easy to find. I really believe that creativity comes from great organization.”

3. Welcome a little help from your friends

“People are always excited to help in the kitchen,” Chesebro says. “Delegate some of the work, and invite friends and relatives to bring a dish they've prepared to the dinner if they want to. Make everyone feel like they’re part of the process, and tap into that collective energy.”

Also tap into the power of today’s appliances. Temperature probes and smart features on modern ovens take the guesswork out of roasting, for example. Your roast is done at the moment you specify. “You can enjoy time with other people and not worry about the prime rib in the oven—or if it’s going to be done at the right time,” Chesebro says.

4. Dial up your side dish game

“People are eating healthier,” Chesebro says. “They’re exploring new vegetable dishes—in some cases, meat dishes are becoming secondary to veggie dishes. It’s a fresh way to approach a holiday meal. I love to take inspiration from winter produce like squash, Brussels sprouts, kale, and citrus.”

Chesebro's emphasis on produce has grown through his work in Sub-Zero’s Harvest Haven corporate garden. See more of the inspiring garden here.

And get inspired by Chef Joel’s recipes for an amazing holiday meal!

Roasted Herb-Rubbed Beef Tenderloin


  • 1 beef tenderloin 5-8 lbs, trimmed of excess fat and all silver skin
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup rosemary leaves
  • 1/4 cup thyme leaves
  • 1-2 medium sized shallot
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seed
  • 2 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt

Puree all of the ingredients of the herb rub together. Spread the rub evenly across all surfaces of the trimmed tenderloin. Cover and allow the meat to marinade in a refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours or ideally overnight for better flavor. Pre-heat an oven to 375 degrees and place the tenderloin on a roasting pan or preheated cast iron skillet. Roast until the internal temperature reaches 125-130 degrees. Then remove meat from the oven and allow it to rest at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. Slice and plate the meat then garnish the top with flake salt and or additional freshly chopped herbs. Serve Immediately.

Roasted Vegetables with Black Garlic Vinaigrette and Pecan Gremolata

Serves: 8
Active time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

Pecan Gremolata

  • 1/2 pound pecans, whole or pieces
  • 1/4 cup parsley, large stems removed
  • Zest of 4 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 375F. Place pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until fragrant and slightly browned, 5-7 minutes. Place in food processor with parsley, zest, salt and pepper and pulse until mixture forms a loose crumble. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed and reserve.

Black Garlic Vinaigrette

  • 12 cloves fermented black garlic (found in most health food stores and online)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, preferably whole grain
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup white wine or rice wine vinegar
  • 1 cup grapeseed oil
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Place black garlic, Dijon, honey, maple syrup, and vinegar in a food processor and blend for 30 seconds until creamy and smooth. With the food processor running, slowly add the oil, a few drops at first, then a steady slow stream. Adjust seasoning as needed with additional salt, pepper, or honey, and reserve.

Roasted Vegetables

  • 2 pounds Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed and cut in half
  • 2 pounds baby rainbow carrots, medium diced
  • 1 pound shallots, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch coins
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450F on convection setting if available and insert a large rimmed baking sheet. Toss vegetables together in a large bowl and add grapeseed oil, salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Carefully remove baking sheet from oven and spread vegetables in an even layer without overcrowding. By allowing the pan to preheat, the vegetables will cook more rapidly and brown more evenly. Return tray and vegetables to oven and roast, stirring halfway through, until tender and caramelized, about 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and toss with Black Garlic Vinaigrette and sprinkle liberally with Pecan Gremolata. Serve Warm.

Spaghetti Squash Gratin

  • 1 large or 2 small spaghetti squash (approximately 4 pounds)
  • 8 ounces heavy whipping cream
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 ounces sour cream
  • 8 ounces Parmesan or similar hard cheese, divided
  • 3 tablespooons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons Espelette or Aleppo chili flake
  • 1 teaspoons white pepper, ground
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Grapeseed oil, to fry sage

Preheat oven to 425F. Cut squash in half the long way and scoop out seeds and pith. Place cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet and brush lightly with oil. Season liberally with salt and roast in oven for about 50 minutes, or until browned and tender. It is important to not over-cook the squash, so be sure to check every so often during the final 20 minutes of cooking. The squash should be tender and shred, but not fall apart. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

Turn the squash over and peel the skin from the outside. Using two forks, gently shred the squash into long strands. In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked squash, heavy whipping cream, butter, sour cream, corn starch, chili flake and half of the cheese. Mix well to combine, adjusting seasoning as necessary with salt and pepper, and place mixture into a greased 8”x8” cake pan. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and place back in 425F oven for 25-30 minutes, or until top is golden brown.

While gratin is baking, heat a small amount of oil in a small saucepot over medium heat to about 350F. Carefully place sage leaves a few at a time into oil. Be careful, as they will sputter at first and having a lid handy is advised. Allow sputtering to subside, about 5-10 seconds, and remove lid. Continue frying, stirring occasionally until leaves turn dark green, about 20-30 seconds total. Carefully remove and place on a paper towel to drain. Sprinkle lightly with salt and reserve. Crumble over gratin just before serving.

Prune Cake

Soaked prunes:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 ounce dark rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups dried prunes 

Prune Cake:

  • 8 ounces soft unsalted butter 
  • 1 cup, tightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 13 ounces 2% milk, warmed                                                            

Egg nog whipped cream:

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoon dark rum
  • 3 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

In a saucepan, combine all prunes and simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes. Drain the liquid from the prunes and set the prunes aside. Return the liquid to the stove top and simmer until the liquid reduces to about 1 cup. Set aside.


In a stand mixer, combine the butter, brown sugar, salt, and vanilla. Whip on a medium high speed until the mixture becomes lighter in color and is fluffy. Scrap down the sides of the bowl and add the room temperature eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl between each addition. In a separate bowl, whisk together the cinnamon, flour, and baking powder. Add one third of the flour mixture to the egg mixture, then one half of the milk. Add another third of the flour mixture, the rest of the milk, and add the remaining flour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bundt pan, grease generously with pan spray. Place the prunes on the bottom the bottom of the pan and then pour the prune liquid on top of the prunes. Spoon the cake batter on top of the prunes. Spread out evenly. Bake the cake for about 1 hr and 15 minutes, until an inserted tooth pick comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then invert onto a plate. Serve warm with whipped cream.

Whipped cream:

Combine all ingredients and whip in a stand mixture until it is fluffy.