When it comes to holiday meals, what happens in the kitchens of culinary professionals and American family cooks is very similar:

Top Food Holidays

No surprise here! About two-thirds of both groups (66 percent of food professionals and 62 percent of family cooks) say Thanksgiving is the biggest "food holiday." Christmas comes in second at 29 percent for food professionals and 34 percent for family cooks. Planning Makes Perfect

Many of us (57 percent of culinary professionals and 49 percent of family cooks) begin planning their holiday meals at least two to three weeks in advance. Thirty-six percent of family cooks plan one week in advance, versus 28 percent of culinary professionals. Fifteen percent of culinary professionals and family cooks admit to being last-minute planners, beginning less than one week in advance. In the Kitchen

More than half (52 percent) of food professionals report they start to prepare some menu items one week or more in advance, while only 18 percent of family cooks start that early. Most family cooks (69 percent) begin preparation the day before the holiday meal, compared to 43 percent of food professionals. Of those who start cooking the day of, 14 percent are family cooks and only 4 percent are culinary professionals. Receptive to New Recipes

Content Continues Below ⤵ ↷

Interestingly, more culinary professionals (14 percent) than family cooks (9 percent) say they do not try new recipes for the holiday meal. Seventy-two percent of family cooks and 53 percent of culinary professionals try one or two new recipes each year.

More from our magazine:  Roast Turkey Breast with Herb Stuffing

Time to Eat

When it comes time to eat, almost two-thirds (62 percent) of culinary professionals report spending more than one hour at the table, compared to one-fifth (20 percent) of family cooks. The "non-food professional" household is more likely to spend between 31 to 60 minutes eating (73 percent), while 38 percent of the food professionals� households sit down for that long.

*Surveys of 1,000 American families and 117 members of the International Association of Culinary Professionals conducted in April and May 1999 for the National Pork Board by Market Facts, Arlington Heights, Ill.