CHICAGO - Where do you go when you need to make 3,000 Thanksgiving dinners? You'll need a stadium-sized kitchen.
That is why Guaranteed Rate Field smells like turkey and all the trimmings this week.
For 26 years, Levy Restaurants of Chicago has been making Thanksgiving dinner on a massive scale, meals that are served free to Chicago's homeless population and others in need.
"We're looking at a big production of great people from Levy restaurants pulling this big meal off," said Levy Restaurants Head Chef Robin Rosenberg. "Three thousand people we're feeding on Thursday."
The numbers are staggering:
- 1600 pounds of turkey
- 600 pounds of sweet potatoes
- 500 pounds of cranberries
- 400 pounds of mashed potatoes
- 300 pounds of green beans
- All garnished with 120 pounds of butter
You can't make a meal this big in an ordinary space, which is why Levy Restaurants is playing ball in the huge industrial kitchen at Guaranteed Rate Field that normally cooks ballpark food for thousands of fans.
"We're doing it at the ballpark because it's one of our biggest kitchens in the city of Chicago," Rosenberg said. "And it's where we can really pull this off. We've got all the right equipment. We've got all the refrigeration. We're centrally located. We can get to the Salvation Army in about 30 minutes."
On Thursday, the fresh food will be led by police escort to several Salvation Army Centers around the Chicago area, as well as homeless encampments under bridges and along expressways.
Putting this huge meal together requires months of logistical planning — especially with food prices on the rise and some Thanksgiving staples hard to find.
"Believe it or not, I ordered all the turkey about six months ago just to secure it," Rosenberg said.
The people making the food are all Levy Restaurant employees, who volunteer their time and talents every Thanksgiving.
"It's a joy once a year to come out here," said Levy Vice President Mike Miller. "It's a minor thing in the grand scheme of things, but we like doing it. Feeds a lot of good people."