At Loaves & Fishes, holiday cooking starts early

HARLINGEN — Here’s a pro tip.

When you’re cooking Thanksgiving dinner for 400 people, start early.

Richard Gonzalez is a chef at Loaves & Fishes, the nonprofit charity which feeds thousands of hungry people each and every month.

But like most families, even one this large, Thanksgiving dinner is a special event.

Loaves & Fishes will host its Thanksgiving Day dinner today from 3 to 5 p.m., but being a day early doesn’t mean it will be anything less than the best.

“We’ll have about 31 turkeys,” Gonzalez said. “We started today (Tuesday). We’ll have stuffing, mashed potatoes — the works. That’s what I do.”

As he stands before dozens of turkeys that have been roasted to dark brown perfection, Chef Gonzalez knows it’s a numbers game, and that includes requests for seconds of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole and cranberry sauce.

“We have roughly about 400 people, that’s how much we do,” he said.

“We usually do enough to feed like a thousand, or 800 people. Because you know everyone’s going to get two plates, plus the volunteers that come in.

“We have a lot of volunteers that come in on Wednesday,” Gonzalez said. “Everybody comes, and we take care of them.”