Seasonal Beauty on the Plate at Turn by David Kirkland in St. Louis
Chef David Kirkland, formerly of Café Osage, is putting down roots of his own in a new restaurant space, in addition to consulting at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis’ café and running his own catering business. The native St. Louisan began cooking for himself and his sister at a young age, absorbing key lessons like the importance of wearing a shirt while frying bacon. But it wasn’t until he lived in Southern California that his Midwestern sensibilities melded with a more global approach to food. Upon returning to his hometown, he started doing prep at Catering St. Louis, learning everything from presentation to production as he rose up through the ranks.
While developing the menu for his new restaurant, Turn by David Kirkland, he had visions of one plate in particular: two or three styles of biscuits served with cheese and jam or curds. The key members of Kirkland’s tasting panel are his family, especially son Naaja, 18, and daughter Ruby, 10. He reports that the Lemon-Lavender Biscuits With Carrot Curd, featured here, earned their seal of approval.
What inspired you to develop this recipe?
I’m really into making sauces and breakfasts. Biscuits are my thing. I was making all the biscuits from scratch at Café Osage, and I wanted to create my own. The lavender and lemon really give you a nice aromatic feel in the lightness of the biscuit. That’s why I stress in the recipe a very small amount of kneading time, because you don’t want to over-work your dough. Then doing three layers, because the layers make the biscuit. That’s why I like rolled versus dropped biscuits. And I love lemon curd. I wondered if I could just use another juice to make the curd. It worked—it’s a beautiful combination.
Tell us about your new restaurant, Turn by David Kirkland.
There are some reasons behind the name. First and foremost in my mind is the turning seasons, but also turning tables! [Laughs.] There’s a lot of revolution in things with the word “turn.” It’s always changing, but revolving back to the beginning point. We’re going to do a lot of American standards and classics with some new twists—a little “turn” to it. I plan on making in-house jams and having a jam business, all based on R&B songs. The brand will be called Slow Jams. The logo may have a revolving record—so there’s the “turn” reference again.
Your restaurant is on the first floor of the .ZACK space in Grand Center. You’re very connected to the arts community. How did that come about?
My wife is the director of exhibitions for Craft Alliance Center of Art + Design, which also has studios in the Grand Center building, so our lives cross paths all the time. I met the founders of the .ZACK through friends at Craft Alliance and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, and I’m involved in a lot of artsy things because that’s what my friends are doing. I’ll be catering on the fourth floor in the event space and then putting together dinners to coincide with upcoming theater shows in 2017. The combination lends itself to serving both communities: food and the arts.
One of my favorite things about dining at Café Osage was seeing crates of produce come into the kitchen from the garden. What was one of your favorite things about working there?
Exactly what you just said. There’s nothing better than being able to walk out your front door and across the street to a quarter-acre of food in the summertime, and a hoop house of winter vegetables. I also enjoyed planning out the seed selection that I would be using for spring and summer. The importance of making sure I coordinated with the farmers was impressed upon me. It’s very similar to someone going to a farmers’ market, except that I was there at the very beginning phase, instead of picking up harvested food.
Will you approach food the same way at Turn?
Yes—it taught me a lot about how to visualize a menu seasonally. It was really easy to go across the street and see what was coming up. That’s forever ingrained in me—I feel it.
You opened over the winter, which is a tough time to open a restaurant focused on seasonal food in Missouri. Why the timeframe?
We opened before early March so we could let people know that we’re here for spring events, like Mother’s Day. Right now there’s not a breakfast-and-lunch space in Grand Center that’s comparable to what I’m doing. Stage Left is a diner, and they’re great, but I want to bring my style of fare to this location. I want people to enjoy the space. The building is beautiful. The energy is inviting.
Photography by Attilio D’Agostino.