With more than 3,000 pounds of turkey ready to be carved, alongside all of the fixings, Thanksgiving Day at Churchill Downs has been a Louisville, Ky. tradition for more than 45 years.
“It’s probably our busiest day of the year outside of Derby week,” said Levy Restaurants’ David Danielson, the Executive Chef at Churchill Downs. “We start preparing the meal months in advance to ensure we have enough food to serve everyone attending. Since we have to order so much food, especially turkeys, we have to start planning our shipments months ahead of time.”
Danielson, alongside a team of several hundred chefs, will begin cooking the Thanksgiving meal early Thursday around 1 a.m. The menu, according to Danielson, consists of preparing nearly 3,000 pounds of turkey, 1,756 pounds of spiral ham, 16,000 dinner rolls, 1,200 pounds of corn, 3,000 pounds of mashed potatoes, and 1,920 pounds of green beans.
“By Wednesday most of the items are prepped and ready to cook,” Danielson said. “This is one of my favorite times of the year at the track because of how many families come out to enjoy Thanksgiving together.”
The first year that Churchill Downs raced on Thanksgiving Day was 1969. Around 8,000 turkey dinners will be served with all the trimmings, making it the largest number anywhere in the region.
Dining packages are $70 ($27 for children age 2-12) which includes admission, a racing program, reserved seat and a scrumptious Thanksgiving feast. Menu items (served from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.) are highlighted by Herb Roasted Turkey, Sorghum Glazed Ham, Cornbread Stuffing, Sweet Potatoes, Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes, Green Bean Casserole, Roasted Fall Harvest Vegetables, Butternut Squash and Corn Salad, Fall Pear Salad, and seasonal desserts and pies.
Thursday’s first race begins early at 11:30 a.m. EST. The 12-race card includes the $200,000 Falls City Handicap (Grade II) and $200,000 River City Handicap (Grade III), and wraps up at 4:50 p.m.