Many of us have fond memories of making Thanksgiving dinner together with our families, but also wish that there was a way to speed up the whole process.

Nick Gradinger told me last week that he and his team at Vessel Kitchen worked together to find a solution for Thanksgiving. Vessel Kitchen is a restaurant with five locations in Salt Lake County. The restaurants feature meats and sides that are healthy and trendy. I’ve eaten there a number of times and am constantly impressed by the quality (try the carrots and Brussels sprouts).

Gradinger told me that Thanksgiving is a time where people often travel home to see family and “in aggregate, that time is worth spent with the most important people in your life” rather than being “utterly consumed in the kitchen.”

He said, “We’ve always looked at, doing the bird is a sacred rite of passage for your family — let us do the rest of the work, you can cut that time out.”

That’s how Vessel Kitchen came up with its Thanksgiving package. This package, called “Thanksgiving Bundle,” comes with a “choice of two fall market sides, mashed potatoes & turkey gravy, rustic herbed stuffing, family salad, cranberry sauce, house-made dinner rolls & choice of 1 scratch-made dessert.”

There is also an option for gluten-free Thanksgiving sides and a la carte options.

Gradinger said Vessel Kitchen launched five years ago, but it took on a new meaning during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that restaurants had to navigate ever-changing legislation and political landscapes during the pandemic, so that made Vessel Kitchen’s Thanksgiving initiative even more meaningful.

“The amount of gratitude we got from people, give them an opportunity to know that quality ingredients that were not going to cost an arm and a leg was ... one of the more beautiful experiences in the history of Vessel Kitchens.”

Close-up view of the stuffing and rolls from Vessel Kitchen’s Thanksgiving sides.
Close-up view of the stuffing and rolls from Vessel Kitchen’s Thanksgiving sides. | Vessel Kitchen

I asked Gradinger how he and Vessel Kitchen had changed their Thanksgiving recipes over time. Gradinger talked about how Thanksgiving was a time for his team to explore using quality ingredients to appease everyone’s palates. He told me that the team spent over 20 hours working on improving their stuffing recipe.

He mentioned that the stuffing was seen as too “banal” by some, so the team worked together to make the seasonings more robust. He said that these improvements to the stuffing were pivotal in elevating their sides.

This year, he said, there’s going to be a great surprise. “We are big fans of ‘normal ice cream,’” Gradinger said. “We reached out to them and they are doing a limited time only limited brown butter vanilla ice cream.” The special flavor of the Salt Lake City-based brand normal ice cream will be available with the Vessel Kitchen Thanksgiving bundle.

This ice cream, he said, would be great scooped on top of Vessel Kitchen’s apple caramel crisp.

Thanksgiving sides pictured: Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, rolls, cranberry sauce, stuffing and more.
Thanksgiving sides pictured: Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, rolls, cranberry sauce, stuffing and more. | Vessel Kitchen

Ordering Vessel Kitchen’s Thanksgiving sides is easy. There is a limited amount of bundles available each year, but they can be ordered on Vessel Kitchen’s website. After you place your order, you can pick it up at a designated time on Nov. 23. All you have to do is place an order online, select a store as a pick-up location and select a window of time to get your food. All orders come with detailed instructions on how to reheat.

I had to ask Gradinger what his favorite, must-get items were this Thanksgiving season. While it was difficult for him to pick, he said that the apple crisp caramel, the carrots, cauliflower fresno or Brussels sprouts would have to be his favorite.

If you’re in the Salt Lake area and would prefer to just cook the turkey this year, Vessel Kitchen might be the solution for you.