turn chef-owner david kirkland photo by r.j. hartbeck

What I Do: David Kirkland of Turn

It’s only natural that chef David Kirkland opened his first restaurant in the heart of St. Louis’ arts scene. He has always created and appreciated art, from his early days as a professional DJ in San Francisco to 10 years serving farm-to-table brunch fare at Cafe Osage

He opened Turn at 3224 Locust St., the intersection of Grand Center and Midtown Alley in 2017, where he showcases his spin on health-focused comfort food and his extensive record collection on a rotating wall display. Here, Kirkland talks turntables, small-business success and his favorite after-work indulgence. 

“Our first clientele we were trying to get in was the ladies who lunch because that’s who came to Cafe Osage. … We started using algorithms on Facebook and Yelp and Google and paying attention to who was actually walking through the door and started catering to those people. My demographic has changed from 25- to 60-year-old women to 25- to 55-year-old men who bring in dates.” 

“A lot of really good customer base has been built just being a black-owned business. The black community has completely come in to support me. Then we started thinking about other minority-owned businesses like women-owned businesses and started putting that into our algorithms on Facebook. We get a lot of women in here and women-owned business [owners]. We support each other all the time on Instagram. It’s a really nice community we have.” 

“It’s the same muscle memory [when cooking and DJing]. … You listen to one track on one side, and you have a mixer so you can go back and forth, and you listen to another track. You take one part from that and another part from that to make a whole. It’s the same. It’s even the same motions when I’m stirring and when I’m DJing.” 

“I have at least 700 to 800 records. The rest of my collection, which is another 600, is with a former roommate in San Francisco. Every time I go visit him, I come back with with 50, 60 records. ... And I keep buying records. That’s why it’s a problem. When the record store was in the [.ZACK] building, it was bad.” 

“I bought 45s [growing up]. I bought Kenny Rogers’ ‘Lady.’ I bought Queen’s ‘Another One Bites the Dust.’ And then I saw this other record, and I didn’t know who it was, but I figured if it was close enough to Queen, then I should buy it, and it was ‘Controversy’ by Prince. That started me listening to Prince and being a collector of all his music. My parents always had music. I’ve always had records in my life, but the first ones I purchased with my own money at Streetside Records – those were the ones.” 

“Normally, when we curate the wall, we try to represent our family and what music we like, so there’s a wide variety of things. This wall, this is all the music I wanted to play last Friday. ... It’s pretty eclectic.” 

“I watch really bad TV – ‘Judge Judy’ – I’ll admit it. I’ll say it out loud. I get it from my mom. My wife makes fun of me all the time, but it’s like an homage to my mom. My mom used to cook and watch soap operas, and you can’t get any more soap opera than judge TV. … True to my mother’s form, and if I’m watching it and I’m intrigued, I will burn something because I’m not paying attention.”

Impressive doesn't begin to describe Kirkland's record collection. Check out this playlist of his all-time favorite tracks, from Marvin Gaye to Fishbone. 

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine.