GMA Chef Reveals How To Avoid The Top Thanksgiving Culinary Disasters

Keep calm cooking and manage Thanksgiving disasters with the TV chef

Lily Waddell

John Kanell of Preppy Kitchen has lifted the lid on how people can stay cool in the kitchen heat at Thanksgiving and how to deal with any big disaster.

Read about the upcoming Al Roker Thanksgiving in our digital issue here

Working on live TV can be chaotic and the chef is very experienced – he has cooked up a storm in Good morning america, the drew Barrymore Show Y the Ellen Degeneres Show. In addition, the gastronomic influencer -who in recent years has made Reese witherspoonbirthday cake from – has worked as a television judge for Food Network’s Chopped: Sweets and Disney Magic Baking.

For our thanksgiving digital special starring Prue Leith on the coverJohn has revealed his secret to making the festivities run smoothly on Thanksgiving.

In a discussion with HELLO!the dad also revealed Drew Barrymore is the kindest celebrity he knows and spoke candidly about living on a farm with her husband and twins…

What are your top tips on how to stay cool, collected, and calm in the heat of the kitchen for Thanksgiving?

Make a list and divide things up with a few of your guests. People love to help and everything counts. Plan ahead! Prepare as much as possible and start on Monday. Many things can be frozen and baked the same day or made the night before.

Have reasonable expectations, you don’t have to do everything yourself to have a wonderful meal. If you’re making an impressive dessert, you may need to cut back on the garnishes. Don’t forget to defrost the turkey, and while you’re at it, prepare the compound butter that you’ll rub over and under the skin of the turkey the night before.


John loves to cook with his children.

Plan your kiln rotation. Most of us have limited oven space, so figure out the sequence in which you will bake things. Remember that you also have a seat at the table. Hosting shouldn’t be stressful, so plan ahead and be prepared so you can have an enjoyable day, too.

What can people do if they have a kitchen disaster on Thanksgiving?

Give yourself a little grace! Good and bad things happen in the kitchen every day, it’s not so much the perfection of the food you enjoy as the welcoming spirit you bring as a host and the quality of time spent together. If things really work out, a big cheese board, some crudités, and sparkling wine or cider will buy you some time while a plan b is worked out.

Can you share a list of your ideal Thanksgiving menu?

A persimmon salad (from my book).


Copyright: 2022, John Kanell. Photography 2022 By David Malosh.

Reproduced with permission of Simon Element, a Simon & Schuster imprint. All rights reserved.

Delicious roast turkey, herb rice (my mom’s recipe), sweet potato casserole, blanched asparagus with citrus dressing, fresh-from-the-oven biscuits with oodles of butter, and of course, garlic mashed potatoes.

For dessert we have Pumpkin Pie and Chocolate Silk Pie, both with CRISP butter crusts, silky smooth fillings, and mountains of whipped cream.

What advice do you have for people who are cooking for lots of people for the first time this Thanksgiving?

Plan things out. DO NOT do things on the day unless you have to. Most things can be made ahead of time, casseroles can be made a day or two ahead and baked the same day.

The turkey should be thawed a few days ahead of time, and desserts, such as pies, can be baked the night before. You have very little to do on the actual day, so plan it out and make a list of what needs to be done and when so that you can have a good time on the actual day.

What’s so special about cooking on Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is the ultimate nostalgia come to life. We grew up enjoying special dishes that our family prepared each year and we look forward to creating those memories for our family and friends.

How are you spending Thanksgiving this year and are you in charge of the kitchen?

I am in charge of cooking, however, when my mom visits me, we are co-captains in the kitchen. We love having all the grandparents and siblings with their families.

What are you personally grateful for and what do you like best about Thanksgiving?

My family and health! I love having my family together at the table and reliving past meetings through the dishes we prepare.

How did the request for Reese Witherspoon’s birthday cake come about?

I got an Instagram DM from her out of the blue and after discovering her favorite flavors I made a vanilla funfetti cake with Swiss meringue buttercream decorated with 3D flowers and butterflies which I painted onto the cake with a spatula. She was so kind and gentle and it was one of my favorite cakes I’ve ever made.

Who is the nicest celebrity you’ve ever met and why?

Drew Barrymore is even kinder and more wonderful in person than what you see on TV. She is warm, open, curious, generous, and very down to earth. It is a pleasure to be around her.

When did you first fall in love with cooking?

I grew up helping my mom in the kitchen. She came to the US from Mexico and brought with her a love of fresh ingredients and cooking from scratch.


John and his mother on the farm.

Spending time with her in the kitchen was very special to me as a child and really spawned my love of cooking.

Do you cook with your children and do you think they will follow in your footsteps?

Being in the kitchen is always more fun with a partner, and luckily, Lachlan and George LOVE helping out in the kitchen and doing things with me. I brought them in young and started with simple things like mix and pour, but now they can make pizza from start to finish (with a little help) and they love to make banana bread and all kinds of bagels and muffins.

They really enjoy making video appearances here and there, but time will tell what they choose to do, there is stiff competition to be a firefighter or astronaut right now!

Why is family life really important to you?

My family is who I am, everything I do is really for them and without them everything would be empty.

Outside of the kitchen, what is life like on the farm?

Life on the farm is busy and often filled with long days, but there is great reward in watching the crops grow, especially when my children help tend the garden and harvest the bounty, care for our bees and animals, and above all there are so many moments where you really appreciate the cadence of nature; be it in the light that filters through the red and amber leaves in autumn or in the first green shoots that peek through the snow in spring.


The whole family celebrating John’s success.

Why do you think you are so successful on social media?

At heart, I’m still a high school math and science teacher. I loved taking complex assignments and breaking them down into small achievable parts so students could experience success and learn to love sometimes difficult subjects.

I still do the same thing, only now I help people feel safe and have fun in the kitchen so they can prepare delicious meals to share with family and friends. Like everyone else, I make a lot of mistakes, but they are always moments from which we can learn and grow.

Is there a famous chef that you admire a lot and why?

My mother and I love Julia Child, her enthusiasm, warmth and humanity inspired us to explore new flavors, techniques and chart a path for ourselves in the kitchen.

Would you like to pursue a career in television as a judge or chef?

I love the energy of being on set and surrounded by people who share a love of food. I have had the pleasure of judging on various shows and recipe demos and look forward to doing more as things open up and more in-person recordings are made.

What inspired you to write your first cookbook and what was your experience like?

When Brian and I moved to Connecticut with our 2-year-old sons, Lachlan and George, we were amazed by the seasons; not just how they affected the ingredients you could grow and buy, but also how they affected the way we lived and what kinds of food we wanted to make and eat.

In the summer we enjoy the bounty of the garden and eat outdoors under a giant willow tree. In the winter we nestle inside, enjoy comfort food, roast or pies in the oven and all those warm spices are used frequently.

This realization inspired me to write a seasonally organized book that traces our first year at Hedge Hill Farm.

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