Turkey and dressing. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Green bean casserole. For many, these are the foundational staples of the Thanksgiving meal. But, as Charlotte-based culinary student, Haley Williams says, “I think Thanksgiving food is really boring.”
Williams, 25, is preparing a Thanksgiving meal both delicious and unique, and the first of its kind for the young culinary student. This year Williams’ holiday menu consists of roasted chicken with a sweet and spicy Thai dipping sauce, a Korean corn cheese dip, a harvest salad featuring Korean sweet potatoes and Brussel sprouts with a miso maple glaze, roasted eggplant glazed and moistened with sesame oil, along with a lychee apple cider mocktail – topped with a dash of ginger beer and a hint of coconut cream–served with a frozen piece of lychee to finish it off.
Williams has had a lifelong appreciation for multicultural cuisine, and this year’s feast, she says, was driven by her love of Asian food. “It’s fresh. I think it often hits on sweet, spicy, savory, and sour, and those are flavor profiles that I really like.” Haley recently studied at the Culinary Institute of America graduating from their Basics Bootcamp program. Her time spent working and learning alongside America’s top chefs worked to boost her confidence in the kitchen. Now in her free time, you’ll find Williams preparing wholesome, luxurious, meals. This is what Williams would call “becoming bon vivant” (her Instagram handle is @becoming.bonvivant).
Food, Williams says, is all about community, and both are very important to her. Her background is in social work and education and plans to use that skillset to “create a space where food is the thing that gets people in the door, but the space is all about creating community” she says. Haley plans to “use food to build community and bridge gaps between different communities and polarized communities” because she believes “that if we center ourselves and find more community, and more similarities, our world would be a better place.”