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An Interview With The 'Highly Likely'
"Enjoy it, destroy it."
There are very few people who have the courage to continuously reinvent themselves. Kat Turner is one of those rare and inspirational people who dares to live her best life. From actress to private chef to restauranteur, the Wisconsin born and raised Turner combines her artistic creativity and her love for cooking in order to create a dynamic community around food, art and design.
As owner and chef of Highly Likely, food stylist at mystical Flamingo Estate, and visionary entrepreneur, Turner embraces opportunities, turning them into muses for her culinary creations. Her moto - enjoy it, destroy it - gives her the permission to freely experiment with flavors, spices, and textures, eliciting eatable art on the plate.
DLISH had the unique opportunity and pleasure to join Turner at her charming restaurant, Highly Likely, in Los Angeles to speak about her love of condiments, building a home, gardening and, most recently, design.
Mona Bavar: How did your journey as a chef begin?
Kat Turner: I would say by accident. Back in 2007, I was working at a friend’s restaurant while working as an actress and burlesque dancer. When my friend burned her hand on the line, she asked me to help out in the kitchen and from there my life took a different path. I have always loved cooking and grew up in a family where my mom cooked, my dad cooked so it seemed a natural calling. I attended the Natural Gourmet Institute and went on to work as a private chef, eventually ending up here with my own cafe, Highly Likely.
MB: What attracted you to saying yes to your own restaurant?
KT: There is a moment when things feel like they can become a possibility - there's a bridge that ties the two together and for me personally, it's having people who believe that I can do a certain thing. It's having the support of even just one person saying, ‘hey, you know, you're really good at…’, or, ‘you know, I can help you get there’. The support of others motivates me. That's what attracted me.
MB: What do you love about cooking?
Coming from an art background, there is an attraction to being able to work with my hands and create a sculpture, to be able to build beautiful plates of food, and present them as functional, edible art. My friend, Kit Scarbo, and I were having a conversation about the ephemeral beauty of art and how it is not meant to last forever - essentially the idea of creating something that is meant to be destroyed and consumed. From there she came up with the most appropriate phrase which sums up the concept - enjoy it, destroy it. That kind of transformation is powerful. There is also the community aspect. I have an innate need to serve and to build community. I love to bring people together, supporting them, nourishing them.
MB: What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?
KT: I love creating spaces that make people feel good when they walk in. This includes gardening, which I love to do - I think that in a parallel universe I am a master gardener. I also enjoy building a home and interior design. I have decided that my new home in Palm Spring will be a place where people will walk in and want to take off all their clothes. I want it to be a warm and inviting space, a nice mix of masculine and feminine vibes.
MB: You are also food stylist at Flamingo Estate. How are you enjoying this creative venture?
KT: I love it. The founder behind Flamingo Estate, Richard Christiansen is one of the most deeply creative, playful human beings I've ever worked with. We get to play with a bunch of ingredients, looking for ways to showcase things like honey and olive oil. Richard bring together a team of creatives in this mystical, playful environment. The location is absolutely beautiful, very feminine with a sensual feel.
MB: What is the last thing you bought and love?
KT: I recently bought a condo in Palm Springs. It is a project that is not related to my work and it's given me something else to focus on. I very much love design and building a home, a place where I can escape to and get inspired.
MB: What is the best gift you have ever received?
KT: Some years ago my parents gave me a gold chain with a ring on it for Christmas. The gold chain was the original wedding ring that my mom had given my dad, but because he was a sailor he couldn't wear a ring, so instead he wore the chain as a wedding band. The ring, on the other hand, had been given to my mom by my dad when she got pregnant with me. Recently my dad passed away and so this gift is even more special to me. It is like a communication device that keeps me connected to him.
MB: Who is your favorite chef or someone that you would love to cook for you?
KT: I really enjoy the experience of just eating with other people. So whoever is cooking me dinner at that moment is my favorite person and my favorite place to be. There's such a deep appreciation for anyone who cooks for another person.
MB: What will we always find in your refrigerator?
KT: Oh, my God, condiments! All the condiments! Also a bottle of my hot sauce, HiLi Hot Sauce, that we make here in house. It’s incredible. It's probably one of the things that I'm the proudest of.
MB: What’s the one indulgence you will never forgo?
KT: I definitely believe in indulging in little things that you love. I love jelly beans and peanut butter cups.
MB: What have you been thinking about differently recently?
KT: I’ve been thinking about the operational side of my business and trying to find an intersection between creativity and profitability, developing new menu items based on local products as much as possible.
MB: What do you love to eat?
KT: I love simple but super flavorful foods. Like a simple salad and add a fantastic dressing with citruses and a combination of spices. I love tacos – a perfect mix of really fresh, simple ingredients with different textures and different sauces or salsas to create the perfect flavor.
MB: Any last words?
KT: I think it is nice to talk about the different facets of what we love doing and why we create. Ultimately, the reason why we get up in the morning and do what we do. I appreciate that I learn a lot about myself through these questions.
Click here to see more of Kat Turner's magic.