A personal chef’s tips and tricks for perfect thanksgiving mashed potatoes!


As a personal chef, I think I must have made classic mashed potatoes literally thousands of times!  Seeing that Thanksgiving is right around the corner, I thought it would be an ideal time to share my mashed potato secrets!

First and foremost, is the potato itself! To my way of thinking, it must be a russet potato. Another name for russet is baking potato; sometimes called Idaho potatoes. While it may be true that you can use another potato, such as Yukon Gold,  none have the right texture that the baking potato has. That is to say, a floury, light fluffy texture. Balanced against more waxy varieties, such as Yukon golds, or red skinned potatoes, I will opt for the russet every time!

Now that you have the right kind of potatoes, the next step cooking them.  Most importantly, cook them in liberally salted water, after you have peeled and diced them. As long as we’re on the subject of salt, I should mention that salt is one of the most important elements of great mashed potatoes. While it may be true that most blogs and the Food Network would have you beleive that kosher salt is the way to go, I opt for sea salt. The reason for this, is I like the subtle flavor of sea salt; compared to table salt, which has a harsh chemical taste. To that end, I’m not a big fan of pinching my fingers into an open container of salt either. 

So, after you have cooked the potatoes in the simmering salted water, until just fork tender. What this means is, simply pierce them with a fork and see if the tines easily go through. You don’t want them waterlogged and falling apart, so test earlier than you think you need to. 

The next step is to drain them very thouroughly. I like to put them back in the stockpot over a low flame for a few seconds, shaking the pot, so some of the water evaporates from the potatoes.

Now that your potatoes are cooked, it’s time to mash them.  To my mind, this is the most important step; you need a ricer! Nothing will give you the smooth fluffy texture that a ricer will give. For example, if you use a hand mixer, or god forbid  a food processor, your potatoes will be gluey. These are the tips that I love to share from all of my years as a personal chef! 

Have lots of room temperature unsalted butter on hand, as well as room temperature cream cheese. Put some whole milk (and cream if you like) into the stockpot (it’s not necessary to dirty another pot!) and warm it.  

After you have riced the potatoes, put in much more butter than a reasonable person would use. This is Thanksgiving, it’s no time to skimp or watch calories, if you ask me. 

For example, for 5 pounds of potatoes, I would use two sticks of butter, minimum. Also a block of cream cheese, and only enough warm milk/cream to make it the right texture. My advice is to take it easy and go slow while you are stirring the milk in; it can go from perfect to too runny in no time flat! Sprinkle more sea salt than you are accostomed to using, too! Potatoes need a lot more salt than other foods do.

So there you have it. To summarize: russett potatoes. Cook them in salted water. Drain thoroughly. Rice them. Add tons of unsalted butter, cream cheese and warm milk or cream and plenty of sea salt! These are the perfect Thanksgiving Mashed Potatoes! If I keep giving tips like this, you won’t even need a personal chef! 




From time to time, as a personal chef, I love to leave little surprises for my clients. For example, if they are salad eaters, and not on a restricted diet, I love to leave a bag of homemade croutons. Once ina while, it’s nice to have a buttery, crunchy sourdough crouton to bite into! Being that most of the plate is greens and fresh vegetables, I say why not! 

Being that so few people eat croutons, much less homemade ones, this somehow seems like a special treat! To be sure, the quality of the ingredients matter! (In truth, it always does, doesn’t it?) In this case, I use good bread, unsalted good quality butter. (For example, Kerrygold or Trader Joe’s unsalted butter are both good choices!)  Lastly, the seasoning matters! Here, I used Penzey’s Sandwich Sprinkle; if you’re not familiar with Penzey’s spices, check them out! They have fantastic spices that will up your cooking prowess. I love using their blends; Northwoods seasoning, Fox Point, Bavarian to name a few!

Below is the “recipe”. It is meant to be adapted to your taste. The only caution I would add, is to not be afraid to se this much butter. Good croutons are made with lots of butter, that’s just the way it is.  So long as you’re not eating a diet of mostly croutons, this personal chef says you are going to be just fine with this amount of butter on occasion! 


Homemade Croutons

1 loaf of good bread (Sourdough, french, Italian, Ciabatta; whatever you like is fine.)

1 stick of unsalted butter

3 Tablespoons (at least) of extra virgin oilve oil

All purpose seasoning (any is fine; I like to use Penzey’s Sandwich Sprinkle. If yours doesn’t have salt, don’t forget to add sea salt.)

A few smashed garlic cloves

Fresh finely chopped parsley


  1. Cut the bread in large bite sized pieces. Toast them in a 325 degree oven until completely dry, and starting to get a little brown around the edges.
  2. Heat he butter and olive oil in a pan, on low heat. When hot, add the bread cubes and season with Penzey’s Sandwich Sprinkle or all purpose seasoning and sea salt. Toss around gently every few minutes, so all sides are coated.
  3. After 10 minutes or so, add the smashed garlic. Continue to cook until the cubes become golden. Add more olive oil if necessary. Add the fresh parsley toward the end, and toss gently.

That’s all there is to it! They will keep for several days. If you like, you can re-crisp them up in a low oven.