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Cook Up a Memorable Holiday

Tips 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.