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Levy Restaurants donates 3,000 Thanksgiving meals

Levy Restaurants partnered with the Salvation Army and Ronald McDonald House Charities to donate meals this holiday.

Head culinary chef Robin Rosenberg and Levy Restaurant volunteers prepare yams at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Levy Restaurant volunteers and Vice President Chef De Cuisine Robin Rosenberg prepare yams in a kitchen at Guaranteed Rate Field.
Levy Restaurants

White Sox fans might be used to hot dogs and loaded fries at their home ballpark. But on Wednesday, a restaurant group was borrowing the kitchen at Guaranteed Rate Field to prepare roasted turkey and classic Thanksgiving sides.

Levy Restaurants, in partnership with the Salvation Army and Ronald McDonald House Charities, will donate 3,000 home-cooked meals to sick children in hospitals and those experiencing food insecurity and homelessness. Chicago residents can pick up hot and ready meals in to-go containers from the Salvation Army Freedom Center in Humboldt Park.

“We’re so thankful to work with the Salvation Army to help make this holiday a little brighter for so many across our city who have endured an especially hard year,” said Levy CEO and President Andy Lansing, who helped prepare the dressing on Wednesday. “It may be a simple gesture, but by sharing home-cooked meals made with love, we hope our community knows they are cared for.”

For 25 years, Levy has cooked and packaged Thanksgiving meals for Chicago residents. And they are working with the recipes they used the first year. Robin Rosenberg, the head culinary chef at Levy, crafted the recipes back in 1996. He invited the Levys corporate team at the time to test out all the dishes.

“The first Thanksgiving, I made the meal and I played with the recipes and I got them just right,” Rosenberg said. “It was so good, I just locked it in and documented all the recipes. And every year we do the same recipe.”

Even with thousands of meals to make, Levy used fresh ingredients and made all the dishes from scratch. Rosenberg, for example, boned out the fresh turkey and made gravy.

“Everything is made from scratch just like everyone remembers as a kid or when you get Thanksgiving dinner. The flavor and the smells are there that you remember,” Rosenberg said. “It’s makes me people happy. That’s why we really stress that we do it this way.”

Before the pandemic, Rosenberg and the volunteers at Levy would distribute meals to Chicago residents at Salvation Army. This year, Rosenberg is settling for taping heating instructions onto foil containers for people to use themselves.

At the Salvation Army, Chicago volunteers are already gearing up for distribution. They will give out meals Thanksgiving day in the parking lot outside the Salvation Army Freedom Center, 825 N. Christiana Ave., and from Salvation Army’s mobile outreach vehicles.

The Salvation Army will also be providing a bag of PPE items along with meals.

Nikki Hughes will be helping lead meal distribution at Salvation Army and greeting all the volunteers on Thanksgiving.

“I know my staff looks at me, like, ‘This is work.’ It is work, don’t get me wrong, but it’s just the feeling you get knowing that you’re out there, helping other people,” Hughes said. “I’m excited that we can come along people who might be struggling this year.”