For Every Season, David Kirkland will TURN
Written By Johnny Fugitt
Photography By Carmen Troesser
The St. Louis food community and local arts community intersect at David Kirkland. “I don’t feel like I have to go into the studio and put something out,” says the artist and chef, “because I do it everyday [in the kitchen at TURN].”
With an interest in the arts and passion for making music, Kirkland hasn’t always considered cooking a form of his personal artistic expression. That changed one day when a member of TURN’s staff said to him, “Thanks for letting me work in your studio.” Kirkland had never thought of his kitchen as a studio, but he now sees it as such, with his team working to produce art, not simply food.
“I grew up cooking as a necessity just because my mom worked second and third shifts sometimes,” he recalls. Kirkland continued in the St. Louis restaurant and catering scene before he and his wife Stefanie Kirkland, now Director of Exhibitions and Artists-in-Residence Programs at Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design, moved to the Bay area for a season. Although he took a break from the kitchen, he internalized much of the local, seasonally-driven food culture of Northern California which subsequently swept the country. “I didn’t really think of it being slow food or it being local, it’s just what it was there,” Kirkland remembers, but it impacted his approach to food.
Upon his return to St. Louis, Kirkland catered the occasional charity event and sometimes donated a private meal as an auction item at fundraisers – often to groups associated with the local art scene. Before he knew it, he was back in the kitchen, this time opening what would become a St. Louis foodie favorite focusing on fresh, local breakfast and lunch dishes – Café Osage.
The most popular dish thus far at TURN has proven to be the Arepa – a grilled corn cake with chorizo, over easy eggs, avocado, cheddar and chili verde (a vegan option is also available). The staff favorite is currently the Quinoa Bowl. As Kirkland says, “When you cut the egg and the yolk goes into the vegetables, and the quinoa mix…It seems like the most mundane thing, but it’s so good.” Kirkland was so impressed with the balance of flavors when a friend made a Tortilla Burger – yes, a burger inside a tortilla – he put his own spin on it and added it to the menu at TURN.
The focal point of the light-filled dining space at TURN is a grid of 72 vinyl records. “That’s a very small percentage of the records I have at home,” says Kirkland. “When we were picking it, we were conscious of showing our tastes and our style and kind of who we are.” Seasonal colors were also a big part of it, so expect to see a new spectrum this fall.
The St. Louis arts scene is thriving, as is the local food culture. “I see the same cast of characters at art openings that I see at most restaurants,” says Kirkland. “They tend to be foodies. They tend to be locavores. The art movement also tends to be engaged with what’s going on in the food scene. They’re the ones, I think, who drive it a lot.”
Kirkland has seen how quality meals in special spaces have impacted visiting artist’s impression of St. Louis. The two communities support each other and are helping make St. Louis a destination for art of the eyes, ears and palate.
.ZACK at 3224 Locust Street, the latest development by The Kranzberg Arts Foundation, is home to TURN and Kirkland serves as the premier caterer for the popular new event space upstairs. From making music to his engagement with his wife’s work to working with The Kranzberg Arts Foundation to serving as chef consultant at the Contemporary Art Museum to being a fan of many local artists, Kirkland is spot on when he concludes, “there’s a ton of art in my life.”
Johnny Fugitt is the author of The 100 Best Barbecue Restaurants in America.
L.E.O.: Poached eggs, smoked salmon, caramelized onions, Baetje Farms goat cheese, dill hollandaise, and capers on rye toast
Quinoa Bowl: Seasonal vegetables, quinoa, sunny side eggs
Turn Burger: Bacon Gruyere cheeseburger with tomato pepper jam, arugula and heirloom tomato on a ciabatta bun
Avocado Foccacia Toast: House made Rosemary Foccacia toast points, tarragon avocado spread, heirloom tomato, feta with an over easy egg
Chocolate ancho crème brûlée with blueberries