Let's get real. You may not have it all together for the holidays, but neither do five of your favorite chefs and food personalities. From serving the pickiest eaters to a finicky turkey that won’t cooperate no matter what you do and an extra-salty helping of gravy, these food celebs’ Thanksgiving mishaps remind us all that when things don’t go according to plan, we still have a lot to be thankful for.

Joanne Chang
Co-owner, Flour Bakery and author, "Pastry Love"
About 16 or 17 years ago, Christopher [Myers] and I decided to host Thanksgiving dinner at our place when we had just started dating. I don't know what I got myself into thinking that I was going to cook a Thanksgiving dinner for about 15 people, as I'm a pastry chef by trade. I never actually cooked a turkey, so when people started showing up, I quickly realized that I didn't know what to do.

Luckily, Christopher owned several fine-dining restaurants in Boston, and all of the people on our guest list were either chefs, line cooks or sous chefs. One by one, they came and began to pitch in. They helped prepare the turkey, the stuffing and all of the different side dishes, none of which I was ready to do. It was the longest Thanksgiving ever because I hadn't realized that you had to start the turkey early, but we had an incredible time surrounded by friends and family, who all helped us create our first Thanksgiving dinner together.

Sean Brock
Chef and author, “South
When I was in culinary school, I learned how to cook greens the Charleston way—a lot of vinegar, sugar and ham hocks. I was excited to bring stewed-down porky greens to Thanksgiving dinner at my grandmother's house in Appalachia. Beaming with pride, I watched with anticipation as my grandfather took a bite. He simply shook his head no and said, “What I want to eat is greens. I want to taste the greens.”

That stuck with me forever, so much so that I dedicated a page to it in my cookbook.

Erin French
Chef and owner, The Lost Kitchen
I can never forget the year when we were all about to sit down at the table to enjoy the feast that my parents had spent all day making when my father, as he was adding the last flakes of salt to season the gravy, accidentally poured the entire jar into the gravy. There were a lot of expletives that followed, but it was nothing that a good amount of wine or a big pat of butter couldn't cure.

Adam Conover
Host, “Adam Ruins Everything
I got this idea in my head that in order to cook a really good turkey, I needed a Niman Ranch turkey—one of those turkeys that had spent his whole life happy on a farm outside, hanging out with the other turkeys, scratching around in the dirt and was butchered in the most sustainable manner. Possibly the best turkey in the world.

I brought it home, brined it overnight and just spent so much time working on it. When I finally started roasting it, the timing was off. The thermometer said it was too hot, then too cold and then too hot again. I thought it was underdone, but then it was overdone, and I was stressed out because I had spent so much time and money.

As I was eating I thought, “This didn't turn out right.”

But my family thought it was great. The couldn’t understand why I was so worried. I realized that by putting so much emphasis on making the perfect turkey, I had robbed myself of the experience of enjoying it. Now I just buy a regular old bird, shove it into the oven and call it a day.

Mary Giuliani
Caterer and author, “Tiny Hot Dogs
One year, I was hired to cater a Thanksgiving dinner for a very over-the-top client who wanted an abundance of food. She specifically asked for two turkeys (one to be eaten and one to be shellacked for a prop), 12 different types of sides and waiters dressed up as pilgrims.

It was a disaster of a Thanksgiving not spent with my family and friends. I went home with bags of leftovers because half of her guests didn't even show up, so I turned the food into mini versions of my favorite Thanksgiving food. The next day I invited my friends and family over for a “day after Thanksgiving” do-over.

These excerpts have been edited for clarity.

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