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Volunteer is thankful not to eat turkey on Thanksgiving

Turkey Tango co-founder Clayton Bahr poses with Delbert Briggs, WestTown kitchen manager, and donated Thanksgiving turkeys. [Photo by Brianna Bailey, The Oklahoman] 

Turkey Tango co-founder Clayton Bahr poses with Delbert Briggs, WestTown kitchen manager, and donated Thanksgiving turkeys. [Photo by Brianna Bailey, The Oklahoman] 

After spending about 48 hours straight helping cook Thanksgiving dinner for Oklahoma's homeless, volunteer Clayton Bahr can't stand to eat, smell or even look at turkey.

His clothes will be grease-stained and he will likely spend Thanksgiving catching up on sleep then visiting with family over Chinese food.

"You're covered in turkey grease after doing all that for that long," Bahr said. "Turkey is not the most enjoyable thing after all of that."

Bahr, 46, is one of the founders of Turkey Tango, which feeds the homeless a gourmet Thanksgiving meal with the help of Oklahoma City chefs.

He and other volunteers will begin cooking 100 donated turkeys to feed the homeless on Tuesday and won't stop until Thanksgiving morning.

Bahr started Turkey Tango 10 years ago at City Rescue Mission with the owner of the store Culinary Kitchen, Claude Rappaport.

In the first year, Bahr and Rappaport cooked 10 turkeys and a restaurant donated mashed potatoes.

The event has since expanded to a meal delivered to the homeless at shelters in Oklahoma City and Norman with side dishes contributed by some of Oklahoma City's best restaurants.

Before Turkey Tango, Oklahoma City's homeless were getting a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving; it just wasn't a very good one. There were instant mashed potatoes and turkey that had been cooked days earlier, refrozen and then thawed and cooked again.

“It tasted like chalk,” Bahr recalls.

In his day job, Bahr sells wine to area restaurants, so he's plugged into Oklahoma City's culinary scene. His connections led him to recruit many local chefs to volunteer their time at the Homeless Alliance's WestTown day shelter in Oklahoma City.

Three years ago, Bahr also founded Turning the Table on Hunger, an event that challenges chefs to cook a gourmet meal at WestTown. It's not uncommon for chefs to donate food or kitchen equipment or the shelter for the challenge, or to keep coming back to volunteer.

Bahr started Turning the Table on Hunger after marveling at how the WestTown staff put together meals with limited kitchen equipment and whatever supplies had been donated.

"I just thought, 'Wow! You guys really don't have anything to work with!'" Bahr said.

Dan Straughan, executive director of the Homeless Alliance, said Bahr's efforts are helping Oklahoma City's homeless get better access to healthy, fresh food.

"Clayton is entirely comfortable talking to a fancy chef or talking to one of our homeless guests — that's a rare quality in my experience," Straughan said.

Brianna Bailey

Brianna Bailey joined The Oklahoman in January 2013 as a business writer. During her time at The Oklahoman, she has walked across Oklahoma City twice, once north-to-south down Western Avenue, and once east-to-west, tracing the old U.S. Route 66.... Read more ›

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