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Holiday Cooking with Chef Joseph Holmes

Published November 1, 2017

The holidays are fast approaching and the members of our team here in Gettysburg are gearing up for the excitement. Thanksgiving is one of our favorite times of the year. With the warmth of the fireplaces, the joy of family and the delicious food, we simply can’t get enough. Thanksgiving is a time of tradition and reflection on the year that was and the excitement for the one ahead. It’s a time for the family to remember what is truly important… the turkey (Just kidding!).  The food is often the focal point of the celebration, which is why I sat down with our Executive Chef, Joseph Holmes, to discuss his favorite parts of holiday cooking.


Every year, you create an incredible and diverse Thanksgiving Day buffet that is served in our Grand Ballroom. Is there any one dish that stands out as being a personal favorite to prepare?

My favorites to prepare are the traditional side dishes with some enhancements. I was raised in New England and when I prepare my holiday menu each year, it brings back memories of my upbringing and cooking with my family. To enhance a dish, I’ll take a traditional favorite, let’s say a sweet potato casserole, and I’ll top it with a sticky bun streusel. I’ve also been known to add some honey and currants to a baked squash dish or even herbal cheese to my mashed potatoes. Offering classical accoutrements such as roasted onions and Brussels sprouts is also very important, as they round out the entrées.

Another thing I always offer is a variety of pâtés. Preparing them is definitely not my favorite part of holiday cooking, but I feel it is well worth the effort when you taste the final product.

With such a diverse menu, is there any one item that stands out as a favorite?

I love the holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’ve even been known to start singing Christmas carols in the kitchen long before Halloween. But when it comes to cooking for the holidays, I can’t say there is any one dish that stands out as a favorite. I’ve come up with a number of tricks over the years to make cooking easier, especially when preparing for the masses, but I find each of the 20-30 dishes on our buffet rewarding when finished and presented to our guests.

(Stay tuned for those tricks!)

Spicing up dishes can be intimidating to some home cooks. Do you have any recommendations of spices that you consider essential for holiday cooking?

The holidays, especially Thanksgiving, need to have the aroma of sage and poultry seasoning wafting around the kitchen. The warmth of the oven and those aromas will put you in the holiday spirit every time. And of course, Thanksgiving is just not Thanksgiving without nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, citrus, and cranberries.


I know we all gorge ourselves on the turkey and fun sides, but if we’re being honest, we all look forward to the dessert buffet and want to know how many pieces of pie we can squeeze in before having to break out the sweatpants. But when it comes to dessert, what would you consider to be the most creative desserts you’ve ever served?

As a younger Chef, I would offer my two signature desserts every holiday, especially for Christmas parties. A traditional Croquembouche and an English Trifle Brûlée. In the Croquembouche, I would always prepare a variety of fillings for the profiteroles, such as eggnog, peppermint, and espresso. It is fun to see which one you’ll get. For the English Trifle Brûlée, I would typically include a perimeter of ladyfingers and fill the center with layers of Figgie pudding, gumdrop brûléed cookies and of course, dates and figs, two of my personal favorites.


Hopefully, our conversation with Chef Holmes has left you inspired to think outside the box when it comes to holiday cooking. To see our Chef’s incredible creations in person, make your reservation now and experience our delicious Thanksgiving Day Buffet with your family. We’ll take care of everything – even the dishes!  See you all soon.

Until next time,
Megan C. Wherley
Gettysburg Hotel Insider

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