It's all Gravy: Team serving Auburn Thanksgiving dinner is a group of winners

By: Matthew Kimel, Journal sports editor
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They’re a tight-knit team.
They’ve got a roster of rookies and veterans. 
The squad even has cute nicknames on their “jerseys.”
And unlike the Detroit Lions, they’re winners every year on Thanksgiving. 
Team Gravy, a group of locals who gather the Wednesday before Thanksgiving to prepare nearly 65 gallons of gravy to feed some 1,400 people for free at the annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner, has been going strong for the past eight years. 
“We have a goal to make the best gravy we can for Meals on Wheels and guests that arrive at the noon-time serving,” said Brandi Blasi-Hebbard of Sacramento, who is also know as the “Gravy Queen” and the team’s Jerry Jones. 
An ex-chef, Blasi-Hebbard has been making gravy for the past 18 years at the community dinner, with the help of supplies from the Salvation Army. Team Gravy formed eight holiday seasons ago when Tom “Tommy Taster” Sykes, Marc “Meshuggah Marc” Krupin and Dan “Dan Dan the Gravy Man” Maycock joined the operation.
“They’re fantastic – they’re the best,” Blasi-Hebbard said of her teammates. “The camaraderie, the ability we have, we have a lot of fun and we know we can get the job done.”
Team Gravy goes through a ton of pregame festivities to succeed on game day. On Wednesday morning, they start making their roux. They go through about 35 pounds of butter and flour, 80 gallons of stock and more than a handful of turkeys in the nearly 24-hour process it takes to get the gravy ready for the midday meal at the Placer Building of the Gold Country Fairgrounds. 
The team goes home Wednesday around 10 p.m. only to return at 5:30 a.m. to pull off the intensive process of cooking gravy for a large mass. Together, Team Gravy knows it can get the job done and enjoys feeding others during the two-hour feast.
“I like to give back to my community,” said Krupin of Applegate. “It’s about coming together as a community and giving back to the greater community.”
“It’s a team sport,” said Sykes of Weimar. “The longer you work together, the closer you get and become more efficient. 
“… It’s a fantastic day-and-a-half to spend with friends and new friends and feeding several thousand people. That’s why we’re doing it. People from all walks of life do it together and get ’er done.”
For Team Gravy, there is no such thing as a loss. 
“A victory is happy, smiling people,” Sykes said. “And we’re really proud of the gravy. We all go home with some gravy for a week or two. It’s really good gravy. 
“… Whether it’s raining or freezing, a thousand people come through there and we feed them. We do it in a real respectable way. It feels good every year.” 
Over the years, Team Gravy has morphed into a do-it-all unit. They also pick up the slack in the rest of the kitchen.
“Team Gravy is doing the gravy, stuffing, green beans, the hams,” Krupin said. “We all work well together.”
They also participate in the cleanup after the big meal, which Krupin said could use a few extra volunteers if anybody’s willing to contribute their time.
Even after cleaning the fairgrounds, Team Gravy still has some unfinished business.
At the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, they have a post-game huddle.
“We figure what worked and what didn’t,” Sykes said. “We want to transfer everything to the next year.”