NORTH ADAMS -- The Berkshire Food Project (BFP) will be serving its annual Thanksgiving dinner on Mon day, Nov. 19 from its home in the First Congre gational Church, and a number of people are working together to pull off the event, according to BFP Director Valerie Schwarz.
"We have help coming in, local chefs from the area are helping us out," said Schwarz. "Chef Chris Bonnivier from the Gala Bistro at the Orchards, he pulls in all the other chefs, gets them to donate and cook for this meal. This is the third year we're doing it this way."
Doors for the free dinnner open at 4:30 p.m., and all are welcome.
Thanksgiving dinner at BFP had previously been served at noon, but when Bonnivier approached Schwarz to offer his assistance a few years ago, he told her that many restaurants are often closed on Mondays anyway, and suggested that the BFP have their dinner in the evening so chefs can come and help serve the meal too. And so, for the past three years, the BFP dinner has been, unlike most of the meals they offer, in an evening affair.
"Having it in the evening allows more people to come because parents with their children can come now, and couldn't before because the kids were in school," explained Schwarz. "Elderly families tend to come; families will pick up their elderly parent or friend and bring them to the dinner, so we're expecting our usuals -- the people that come every day -- but also expecting people that don't get to come every day."
Her mission is to make sure that the BFP offers quality meals.
"Everything's made from scratch," Schwarz said. "The turkeys are real, there isn't going to be anything not made like all the chefs like me and [BFP Chef] Jared [Polens] made for our families over the years, so they're getting what we'd serve to our own families."
The food for the dinner will be prepared by a variety of chefs who are pitching in to make the meal happen.
"Chef Greg Roach from Wild Oats, we brought him over our turkeys, so he's brining, roasting and carving the turkeys for us, and then is going to make gravy for us too," she said. "Chris Bonnivier is making apple-sage stuffing and some berry and apple pies, and they're supplying the pickles and olives. From Gramercy Bistro, Sandy Smith is supplying some side vegetables. Harry Patton has a farm in Williamstown, they're supplying 10 gallons of apple cider. The First Congrega tional Church in Williamstown donated over 20 homemade pumpkin pies, and have for almost 10 or so years. The volunteers here at the Berkshire Food Project will be prepping the mashed potatoes, turnips, butternut squash, and I also make stuffing."
With as many as 160 people expected, the BFP won't be able to seat everybody at once, so there will likely be a first seating of 80 to 100 people, and then some wait time until more can be seated.
"But we never run out of food," Schwarz said. "We always have plenty, so I want to invite anybody that would want to come. Our mission is to provide a meal to anyone. We want people from all walks of life to break bread with each other -- this is not just for the needy. We have people who just haven't had companionship, so we'd be blessed to have you there to break bread with them and have companionship that day."
With the BFP's mission to provide a forum where people of different circumstances can meet in an atmosphere of friendliness and mutual respect, the Thanksgiving dinner is open to all, regardless of wealth or social status.
"It's so much more than just food," explained Schwarz. "You can show up and not be needy. And you shouldn't be ashamed or feel badly: You may be making someone else's day happy just by being connected. It's so much fun, the food is always really good and you leave with a sense of family and being connected to your community, and getting great nourishment."
The BFP standard lunch service will be served next week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. For more information, call (413) 664-7378.