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Thanksgiving Feast A Real Treat For RUSD Staff, Administrators
Culinary Instructor Emily Cowdrey greeted staff at the 2019 Thanksgiving Luncheon. Virginia Still/The News

As many families prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday there are a variety of traditions to be shared and gatherings that will occur. In an effort to show staff within the Riverbank Unified School District (RUSD) gratitude, Culinary Arts Teacher Emily Cowdrey and her culinary students prepared a Thanksgiving Luncheon this past Friday that had all the fixings, and served it up in true Riverbank High School tradition.

RUSD Superintendent Christine Facella explained that the lunch began around 1992-93 with the Foods I class that was instructed by Kathy Briggs, the current principal at California Avenue Elementary. The luncheon has been delivered each year ever since.

“It went really well. I think the hardest thing to cook was the tamales, just because of the time it took,” Cowdrey noted of preparing for the feast. “The staff really liked the sweet potato biscuits with honey butter. The challenge was just keeping that many students on task.”

Cowdrey added that additional highlights of the holiday meal were the entire staff having the chance to come together in an extended lunch period and  having the school day modified so the culinary students could work together to pull off the feast.

The menu on Friday included citrus salad with arugula and walnuts, macaroni and cheese, cornbread stuffing with Brussels sprouts and squash, turkey and tamales, cranberry sauce and gravy, and the sweet potato biscuits with honey butter. For dessert the class cooked up a chocolate pumpkin swirl Bundt cake with fresh whipped cream. They also had water and apple cider available for beverages.

“I thought the students prepared quite a spread,” stated Facella. “The big hit for our whole table was the sweet potato biscuits with honey butter. We all thought the flavor profile was wonderful. The macaroni and cheese was just as they used to have it in the south according to Ashley Estaque and Joey Aguilar. Dulce Flores really enjoyed the mashed potatoes and gravy too.”

The tables were set with placemats that were specific for each guest that had their name on it and a turkey with some tidbits on feathers from students in second period. The plates were made by the art class led by instructor Ashley Estaque and cheeseboards made by the building and construction class led by Cory Casteel.

The kitchen was busy, filled with students preparing food and others that went out and served approximately 60 guests.

During the lunch the chatter and laughter filled the room as staff mingled and delighted in the feast that Cowdrey and the students created. Cowdrey also thanked the leadership students that came to help serve the luncheon.

Some of the staff members at RHS were asked what Thanksgiving meant to them and, if there was one item that was a must on the Thanksgiving dinner table, what would it be. Here are the responses.

History and Leadership Teacher Ray Perez said, “Thanksgiving to me means having an opportunity to spend quality time with loved ones and being thankful for everything we have in life. To be reminded to not take everything in our lives for granted. One thing that must be on the table is my mom’s mashed potatoes.”

Facella added that Thanksgiving is an opportunity to be thankful and give to others. Along with the family traditions that they have at their table, the appetizers that are a must have are the Ruffles chips and sour cream and onion dip.

RHS Counselor Maritza Alvarez stated that Thanksgiving, is “a day to give thanks for all the blessings we received during the year and a day to spend quality time with loved ones.” The stuffing is a must at her table.

Cowdrey added that the holiday is a time to get everyone together and for her mashed potatoes is one thing that she would like to have on the table.

“An opportunity to come together and reflect on the things that happened throughout the year,” stated Nancy Garcia about what Thanksgiving is all about. Turkey is something that is a must have at her table.

Ms. Bauer expressed that her family is small so her holiday will be filled with a “hodge podge” of people which is a great time to get together. She is a fan of bread and rolls at the Thanksgiving table.

Donna Bigelow expressed that being with family and friends is important to her on Thanksgiving and mashed potatoes and gravy are a must have at their table.

RHS Principal Greg Diaz expressed that Thanksgiving is a time to reflect and be thankful. He is set to enjoy some homemade stuffing this Thanksgiving, which is a must have at his table.

Cowdrey said the successful cooking, plating and serving of the Thanksgiving feast was a total team effort.


The culinary class at RHS prepared a chocolate pumpkin swirl Bundt cake with fresh whipped cream for staff at the luncheon on Friday. Virginia Still/The News