CHEF CAT TURNER: A VEGAN LIFESTYLE As Self-Care

BY Courtney Arrington

In an industry dominated by males (and most often white males), Cat Turner is a bit of a unicorn as a Black female executive chef. And even more incredible, she comes from a legacy of culinary masters. We had the chance to connect with Chef Cat to discuss her exciting career, favorite flavorings, and a Vegan Lifestyle As Self-Care.

S:

How did you begin your career as a chef?

CT:

My love for food began when I was young; my mother and grandmother taught me the importance of quality ingredients. I then threw myself into learning everything that I possibly could…techniques, food, and hospitality. I began culinary studies through an apprenticeship in Europe. Once I returned to the States, I worked in fine dining, banquets, BBQ smokehouses, and bars. Any kitchen job...I’ve done it!

S:

When you think back to your childhood, were there any signs that you would one day be a chef?

CT:

Yes and No. Yes, because I’ve always excelled in organized chaos and that is what most kitchens are on most nights. Also, I’m from a big family so I love the noise and excitement. No, because growing up I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be. Now I see that I was destined to be exactly who I am. Every day I put on my uniform, I’m grateful.

S:

What has been your greatest challenge as a Black woman chef?

CT:

I would say my greatest challenge is getting respect in a male/White dominated field. It has made me one tough chef.

S:

Is there any cooking advice that you received from an elder that has impacted your career?

CT:

My mother, Chef Caroline, gave me the best advice. She told me “Food tastes better when the chef loves what they do. The day you stop loving it, walk away.”

S:

What was your inspiration for becoming vegan?

CT:

I've always been cautious of what I put into my body, but I’ve been vegan for five years now. I had some health issues that were hereditary and decided I wanted to feel better. Food can be medicine.

S:

Let’s explore this concept of Food as Medicine a bit. What are your thoughts?

CT:

I personally know this to be fact. I don't have a medical degree, but I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Some people make the excuse that healthy food or organic food is too expensive. That’s the incorrect mindset. Your body is your temple and you only have one.
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Some people make the excuse that healthy food or organic food is too expensive. That’s the incorrect mindset. Your body is your temple and you only have one.
’’

S:

For us at home “chefs”, what are the top five (or more) ingredients that you would recommend to make flavorful vegan dishes?

CT:

Vegetables don’t have to be bland. I like to season vegetables as if it’s chicken or steak. Marinate your vegetables with fresh herbs, garlic, and dry spices. Also, try different oils like avocado oil, pecan oil, coconut oil, and infused blends.

S:

If you could only have three spices or seasonings in your kitchen, what would they be?

CT:

Harissa, Cajun, and Salt

S:

Do you have any favorite meat substitutes for vegan dishes?

CT:

Yes. I like jackfruit, mushrooms, tempeh, and cauliflower.

S:

I imagine that being a chef can be very stressful at times. What are some of the ways that you incorporate self-care into your daily routine?

CT:

I have to have a facial, pedicure, and massage once a month. I usually work 14 hour days and taking care of myself is a must.

S:

What is your favorite food indulgence?

CT:

My favorite indulgence is Salted Caramel Cashew non-dairy ice cream by the brand SO DELICIOUS. It is sooooooo good!

S:

What was your favorite meal to prepare during quarantine?

CT:

My goal during quarantine was to make quick and nutrition packed meals. My favorite meal of the day is breakfast! So, I made flourless banana pancakes with maple syrup and blueberries.

S:

What is your place of Sanctuaire (sanctuary) either in your home or elsewhere?

CT:

I would say that my sanctuaire is my balcony where my flower & herb garden is located. I love being a plant mom.

S:

What can we expect in the future from Chef Cat?

CT:

You can expect that I will keep pushing and kicking down doors. The place that I’m in now in my career isn’t my top. I hope to inspire and evolve daily.

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