© 2022 WRVO Public Media
Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Regional News

Oswego restaurant hosts annual free Thanksgiving dinner

Gino Geruntino
Chef Ray Jock prepares food for not only Tuesday's dinner service, but for his annual Thanksgiving dinner.

Across central new York, charity groups are hosting Thanksgiving dinners for the area's less fortunate. But in the city of Oswego, one restaurant owner is expanding on that idea and inviting the entire community to join in.

Nestled in La Parrilla's small kitchen, Ray Jock and his sous chef Jim Toy work to prep food for the evening's dinner service. While the two men discuss specials amid the hiss of grilling squash and the clanging of pots and pans, the pair also creates a game plan for their Thanksgiving meal.

Credit Gino Geruntino / WRVO
The crew at La Parrilla prepares for the dinner shift. The restaurant will be serving a full Thanksgiving meal Thursday for the community.

Jock, an Oswego native, is hosting a free Thanksgiving dinner at his downtown restaurant for the fifth year in a row. He says he got the idea while volunteering for a Fulton church. He says unlike some dinners that target people who can't afford a Thanksgiving meal, he's reaching out to anyone who doesn't have someplace to go.

"No one should be alone. You know, there's a lot of guys that work at the plant that come in from out of state. They might be alone. I encourage those guys to come. You know, if there's fishermen in town that can come that aren't with their family. But it's a little bit of everything. It's not just set for the homeless."

"No one should be alone."

But Jock doesn't host this event all on his own and credits the many businesses and residents who help. Whether it's the fresh produce and meat donated from local venders, pies from loyal customers, or volunteers who serve the meals, Jock says the experience proves what kind of city Oswego is during the holiday season.

"I mean, it's pretty awesome. It's really, really cool," Jock said. "After the years of doing it, we did it from year one, it's humbling. It's a good thing to do and I'm glad we do it, you know."

Credit Gino Geruntino / WRVO
The staff began prepping for La Parrilla's annual Thanksgiving dinner on Tuesday.

When it comes to the menu itself, Jock says he sticks to a  fairly traditional Thanksgiving menu, including favorites like stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy and cranberry sauce. But there might also be a couple of curveballs on visitors' plates too.

"C's Farms, for instance, donated all sorts of great vegetables, so we're going to use them as best we can. I don't remember rutabaga on my plate as a kid, but there will be rutabaga on this plate."

And what about the bird? Jock says he has that covered. He's planning to cook 60 pounds of turkey, not only for the approximately 80 people he expects to serve in the restaurant, but also for to-go meals for some who can't make it in.

"We'll do that for like a lot of the nursing homes, assisted living buildings around town."

La Parrilla's Thanksgiving dinner starts this morning at 11 and ends at 2 p.m.