Vegan Thanksgiving Feast and Raffle

Cafe Parizade on Thanksgiving Day, November 22, 2012

Washington Duke Inn on Sunday, November 18, 2012

Post-Event Summary

Guests enjoying Thanksgiving at Cafe Parizade.This year's Thanksgiving was the first time that we tried having not just a Thanksgiving Day extended seating, but also a pre-Thanksgiving feast the Sunday before Thanksgiving. We had Thanksgiving evening seatings in 2009, 2010, and 2011, but did not this year.

We returned for Cafe Parizade for the 14th year and continued to have the talents of Igor Gacina, manager, Chef Robert Adams, Pastry Chef Lou Mincey, and their excellent staff working with us.

We were also very lucky to have our pre-Thanksgiving feast at the four-diamond Washington Duke Inn, and had the pleasure of working with Executive Chef Jason Cunningham and his team.

Each menu consisted of several dozen choices. Again, most of the choices were soy- and/or gluten- free. This year, we also ensured that each menu had several items, labeled, with no added fat.

Each of the two Thanksgiving feasts featured extensive gourmet menus, fully plant-based. See the menus at Washington Duke Inn and Cafe Parizade. We had 29 raffle items at Washington Duke Inn and 67 at Cafe Parizade for a raffle that, in total, added up to over $4000 worth of quality restaurant gift certificates, plant-based foods, books about vegan living, gift certificates for vegan cooking classes, and much more.

Altogether, it was again very well received, and we beat our old record from last year, having 685 people in our extended Thanksgiving seating (we had 673 in 2011). We believe that we were again the country's largest vegetarian Thanksgiving. In total, adding in the 291 attendees at Washington Duke Inn, we served 976 people (876 last year).

North Carolina National Public Radio ran at least two stories, one on Thanksgiving Eve, and a shorter one on Thanksgiving Day. NBC covered the Washington Duke event, and ABC the Parizade one. There were also several newspaper references in the weeks leading up to the events.

We had over 244 first-time attendees. People came from at least 51 cities in 7 states. We opened for reservations on Saturday November 3rd (19 days before the event); Josie Sianez was the first to reserve, and we received 624 reservations that first day!

We sold all our seats within a few days; because the weather forecast looked good, we opened up twenty additional seats two days before Thanksgiving for an outdoor seating; those went within a half hour.

At the Thanksgiving day event, we recognized with small gifts Ken Guttman and Josie Sianez. Ken's online reservation system is remarkably easy to use and provides important monitoring tools for Ken and myself. Josie did the podcast for the second year on top of her thorough work in calling for raffle prizes, which she has done for a number of years.

We had two moments of silence. In the first, we remembered any sad times that we might have had this past year and gave thanks for all of our own rich gifts. I reflected on the loss of my Mother; she had had a stroke in mid-October 2011 and passed away in early January 2012 (in spite of being a lifelong vegetarian, she was a heavy dairy consumer). Then we focused on our fortunes; I gave thanks to my wife Sangeeta and daughter Anuragini, who had just turned four years old the day before.

Thanksgiving is a massive undertaking and couldn't have taken place without the help of many people. Giorgos Bakatsias, Parizade owner, has founded over 25 fine restaurants and gourmet markets since 1987, the first of which he did when he was in his 20s. Manager Igor Gacina is my "partner in crime" for Thanksgiving and is my key restaurant contact. This year, I also worked significantly with manager April Garrett. Chef Robert Adams and Pastry Chef Lou Mincey always do a phenomenal job. The staff at Cafe Parizade are always so professional and helpful, and we thanked them for working the holiday.

The staff at Washington Duke Inn was very professional; that and serving less than 300 people made the Sunday event seem particularly smooth. Many thanks to Executive Chef Jason Cunningham; Don Ball, Director of Food and Beverage; Bobby Gorham, Director of Restaurants; Vele Luksic, Banquet Manager; Andy Tucker, Executive Sous Chef; Matt Volpe, Banquet Chef; Corey Mansfield, Pastry Chef; and all of the staff who worked with us.

Well before Thanksgiving, many people were involved, such as Josie Sianez, Susan Keesee, and Kathy Borkowski, calling for raffle prizes. Ken Guttman was involved extensively, especially with the website and reservations. Brian Donlon took reservations by phone. Brian, Jenny Finn, Sangeeta Godbole, Brittany Lindsay, Anuragini Barman, James Balfour, Jeffrey Luo, and Donna Hughes helped with setup. Brian did a great job with setting up extensive literature tables at both seatings. Michael Pocinki of Michael's Music DJ Service contributed his services in the daytime.

Jaymin Patel, Monica VanBuskirk, Andrea DeAlto, Linda Vaughn, Barry Nakell, Kybi Gugger, Pinique Singleton and her Mom, Kathy and Linda Borkowski, Eric Zeigler, and Barbara Graham helped with checking people in.

Brian Donlon setup our extensive literature tables (with help on Thanksgiving by James Balfour). Several folks helped with photography, including Alicia Stemper and Christiane Voisin. Josie Sianez and Jill Greeson interviewed a few people during the event; their podcast should soon be available.

The raffle was organized by Sangeeta Godbole and Jenny Finn. I'm sure I'm missing some folks, but many people helped in selling raffle tickets (important as we lose money on the dinner and come out a bit ahead by selling raffle tickets), including Zahra Love, Maria Ponto Ligon, Brian Donlon, Carolyn Argentati, and Pravin Shah; and in distributing prizes, including Cassie Rogers, Rey Carcana, Joy Anandi, Stacy Shepanek with her partner Roger and her Mom Sue, and Leela Aertker.

Josie Sianez interviewed a number of people; her podcast will be published soon.

--Dilip Barman, TVS President and TVS Thanksgiving Organizer, November 22, 2012

Photographs from Thanksgiving 2005 courtesy of Keith Dixon of Picture Perfect Photography and Videography Services from South Carolina, and used with his permission. (More pictures available online.)

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