Head Chef Anthony Serrano thinks of creative new way to give back to his community during the holidays. (Photo Courtesy Jennifer Pruett)

Helping hands: Chef brings Thanksgiving to his community

This is the second installment of our “Helping Hands” series for this week where we give thanks to those extraordinary Latinos whose mission is to help others. 

A box of stuffing, a can of beans, and dried cranberries — now make a meal.

This may be a challenge you would expect from a popular TV food competition, but Anthony Serrano is accepting that challenge this holiday season to give back to his community.

As the head chef and owner of El Palacio Restaurant &  Cantina in Chandler, AZ, Serrano knew he wanted to give back to those in need in his community. In partnering with St. Mary’s Food Bank Community Kitchen in Arizona, Serrano is ready to put a fun spin on the typical Thanksgiving meal. As part of his Top Chef Thanksgiving Fundraiser, the Chef also gets to feel like a contestant of his favorite TV show, “Chopped.”

“My passion is cooking,” says Serrano. “I love coming up with new recipes and dishes to serve in my restaurant and to my family. I’m also a big fan of cooking competition shows and wanted to challenge myself to be innovative in the kitchen while teaching others and supporting the community.”

Creating affordable recipe ideas for families, Serrano plans to teach students how to prepare a holiday meal on a budget that their families will enjoy.

At a time when local food banks are seeing an increase in charitable donations, Serrano was inspired to help others in his new home of Chandler, by creating a meal from commonly  donated ingredients.

The recipes, including pumpkin soup, mango salsa stuffing, and churro rolls, will use ingredients that can all be found at St. Mary’s, as well as other local food banks across the U.S.

The second part of Serrano’s Top Chef Thanksgiving Fundraiser is a special Thanksgiving-themed menu that will be available at El Palacio during the month of November. The special menu will include cranberry salad, Pipian chicken and El Palacio’s award-winning chocolate taco. The restaurant will be donating $2 from the sale of any special menu item to St. Mary’s Food Bank Community Kitchen.

This Thanksgiving, Kate Thoene, director of CK Programs at St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance, is thankful for Serrano and El Palacio. “The funds raised by El Palacio will help us provide food service training, life skills and — most importantly — hope to low-income adults in our community,” explains Thoene.

Serrano is hopeful that his community in Chandler will participate in the fundraiser this holiday season.  “We are hoping people embrace it and help us in giving back to those in need.”

“Bella’s Capirotada” 

A Mexican style “bread pudding”


1 loaf of toasted French bread cubed into 1 inch squares

1 cup Monterey Jack cheese

¼ cup melted butter

4 cones of piloncillo

¼ cup brown sugar

1 cinnamon stick

¼ cup peanuts

¼ cup raisin

1 cup water


Begin by bringing water to a simmer with the piloncillo, cinnamon, peanuts and raisins, and brown sugar in the water. Reduce until it becomes a syrup.

In a casserole pan, place the bread so that it covers the bottom.  Then lightly brush butter on the bread.  Pour part of the syrup on top of the bread.  Then add the Monterrey jack cheese on top of the first layer. Once you are done, repeat each step until the casserole pan is full.  Bake for 20 min at 350 degrees or until all the ingredients have melted together.

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