Talkative all Monday morning, Teddy quieted as the shadow of being cooked was lifted from him at his new Jericho home.
“He will live out his long feathered years in a home built by the innkeepers of the Milleridge Inn,” Anthony Capetola, co-operator of the dining and retail complex, said in the lobby of the famed restaurant. “Teddy will be safe from harm forever.”
The 6-month-old Bourbon Red turkey, a specimen of a declining breed, was saved from a Riverhead farm and granted what some consider Long Island’s first double pardon for his breed: municipal and judicial passes from the dinner table.
Mayor Dan Serota of neighboring Brookville gave him a “full free and absolute pardon” so he could be “spared the butcher’s block.” Retired state Supreme Court Justice John Bivona gave Teddy a life sentence of enjoyment. Nassau SPCA head Gary Rogers exhorted onlookers to be kind to their pets.
Teddy, named after Long Island’s president, Theodore Roosevelt, preened himself in a cage as his new owners and pardoners signed a poster-sized proclamation.
He’ll no doubt gobble up the high life, because as he was being pardoned, workers were building a two-story-high house on the grounds for him, with running water, heat and sliding barn doors. It’s expected to be finished by Thanksgiving Day, and he’ll have fowl roommates — chickens and 15 peacocks that roam the complex.
Milleridge co-operator Butch Yamali concedes he and his colleagues cooked up many ideas and he joked that the next idea will be “putting a diamond ring” on Teddy’s gizzard.
“We got a little out of hand with this turkey,” said Yamali, president of the Dover Group in Freeport, which oversees several famed Long Island dining spots. “It’s like a one-family house. I can literally rent it. It’s bigger than my Manhattan apartment.”
When the two restaurateurs took over operations of the complex this year, there was no proper shelter for the resident fowl, they said. So they built a coop, where the chickens come to roost every night, they said, and the peacocks must’ve loved it, too, because they had four chicks this year.
But it was the idea of animal lover Capetola to have a resident turkey, especially after ordering thousands of turkeys over the years to satisfy Thanksgiving diners.
Teddy was the last one the farm had because most of his companions were killed off at three months old, he said. Bourbon Red turkeys are a slow-growing breed, so they’re usually not the type of turkey on the holiday table, he said. The usual dinner turkey costs about 99 cents a pound, he said, while Bourbon Red turkeys are about $10 a pound.
Capetola, a Williston Park attorney and operator of The Carltun in Eisenhower Park, said he liked the idea of a Bourbon Red, because the breed, like the Milleridge Inn — with its 17th century roots — has a heritage. He wants to help preserve a breed that was developed in the 1800s in Kentucky but fell out of favor when it couldn’t compete with the bigger, faster-growing turkeys that were more economical for farmers and consumers.
He said he won’t wait until Thanksgiving to find another turkey to save. He plans to go on the hunt for Teddy’s mate.
Said Capetola: “I don’t want him to be without anyone for a year.”