MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Thanksgiving came early for folks at the Salvation Army in St. Paul.

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They put out the traditional turkey and stuffing spread with a fine dining feel, complete with a wait staff and white table cloths. To top it off, their special meal was cooked-up by a chef with a five-star background.

Jeff Ansorge has spent most of his life in the kitchen. He’s a skilled chef with an impressive resume.

In fact, he spent a dozen years as executive chef at the Capitol Grille in downtown Minneapolis, before making a major life change.

“I’d looked for happiness and joy and everything and materialism in the job and the home and I just didn’t find it,” he said.

After a rough divorce, Ansorge re-evaluated his priorities and cashed in his $80,000 a year job for one that offered a different kind of reward.

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“It felt like I needed to work for a non-profit Christian organization where I could do God’s work and serve people,” he said.

The Salvation Army seemed like a perfect fit, with a bible in his kitchen and very grateful people in his dining room.

“By the time I leave here, this is going to be gone,” Gregory J. Smith said as he gobbled up the turkey and stuffing. “All of it.”

“There are times where he is serving stuff you’d pay $20, $30, $40 for at a restaurant,” said Captain John Joyner of the Salvation Army.

Ansorge says he planned to go into the ministry as a kid, before discovering food. But now he’s found a way to feed both passions.

“It’s good to make someone’s celebration experience a success,” he said. “And it’s definitely a little different here when you make someone’s day.”

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The Salvation Army says Ansorge brings more than great flavor to the kitchen. Because of his tricks with food — and shopping for food — he’s actually cut their kitchen costs in half.