Chef Paul Baca preparing Thanksgiving dinner
Executive Chef Paul Baca carves a turkey and prepares a variety of sides for UCI’s 2011 on-campus Thanksgiving dinner. Michelle S. Kim / University Communications

Thanksgiving is just days away, and many Anteaters won’t be heading home for the holiday. And since Pilgrims and Native Americans didn’t sit around surfing the Web and eating pizza, UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Thomas Parham will host a classic turkey feast at Pippin Commons.

“The meal allows us to connect with students on a day of reflection and gratitude,” Drake says. “It also provides our international students the opportunity to experience an American tradition in a festive, small-group setting.”

The third annual event ties into the Student Affairs-led “Take an Anteater Home” initiative, which urges members of the campus community to reach out to fellow students, faculty and staff who might not have a place to go during the break.

“We’re proud to declare that the UCI family now has its own Thanksgiving tradition,” Parham says. “We’re particularly grateful to the magnificent UCI staff who have so generously given up some of their family time to serve this meal and help our guests have fellowship with each other.”

UCI Hospitality & Dining Services sent email invitations to all residents living on campus and in independent housing communities and to the International Center. Student Affairs officials distributed fliers about the event to the student body and worked with clubs and organizations to identify students not going home for the holiday.

Last year, Parham and Drake dished up T-Day dinners for about 250 ’Eaters in Pippin Commons. They’re prepared to serve about the same number this year.

Joining the meal will be three senior-level academic and administrative leaders from universities in Jiangsu, China – courtesy of the President’s Fellows Program. Co-sponsored by UCI, it’s the only exchange program of its kind between China and the United States. Besides participating in an intensive study of higher education in the U.S. and the University of California system, the fellows will enjoy a truly delicious dinner.

It will include roast turkey, ham, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, pumpkin spinach and a goat cheese tart. A variety of pies and bread pudding round out the dessert menu, and vegans and vegetarians can choose from such items as Brussels sprouts and a vegetarian casserole made with tofu.

“It’s our duty to make students feel at home if they can’t actually travel home for the holidays,” says Executive Chef Paul Baca. “Our international guests also enjoy taking part in the traditional American meal.”

The banquet will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day in Middle Earth’s Pippin Commons.