We recently had the honor of getting to know Chef Cat Turner, one of Atlanta’s beloved chefs. If you don’t know her, you’ll want to make sure you do and thank us later. Chef Cat Turner grew up in the food world, no literally. She’s a third-generation chef in her family which means it’s super important for her to keep the legacy of her family alive and well, she’s doing the damn thing. Join us as we got to know Chef Cat Turner!

Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Chef Cat Turner, I’ve been a chef for 15 years. I studied culinary in Europe, Germany, and Austria. I was the chef for the Marriott & Ritz-Carlton hotels but my job before now, I was the corporate chef for Legal Seafood in Boston. Right now, I am the Sous Chef for Delaware North Sportservice for the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park and I am the only female. (laughs) I’ve just had a love affair with food for a very long time. I’m a third generation chef. My mom and my grandmother both taught me the importance of food at a very young age. I have a legacy to uphold (laughs).

When did you know that you wanted to become a chef?
Well, I tried to fight it for a while (laughs) but I knew I wanted to become a chef right after high school. It kind of took over my world when I went to Europe and did my apprenticeship. I knew it was what I wanted to do. I realized it was my opportunity to be creative with food and really show my respects for each ingredient.

You create so many delicious meals but do you have a favorite you like to cook and/or eat?
I’ve cooked cuisines from all around the world. From West African to European, to American, Asian… my favorite cuisine probably to make now is vegetarian (laughs) but when it comes to work, all of my fish dishes are amazing. One of my favorite fish to make is the mako shark. I make it with coconut milk, some black forbidden rice, and sautéed bok choy with little red pepper flakes.

When you weren’t a vegetarian/vegan, what was your favorite food to eat?

Before I was a vegetarian/vegan, I used to enjoy the southern cuisines. I grew up on fried chicken, collard greens, mac and cheese, and cornbread. That was my favorite go-to but before becoming vegetarian/vegan, I did dabble as a pescatarian and I did work for a seafood company for years and I really got a chance to understand the difference between fresh fish and wild caught fish and just knowing the flavor base on where you’re actually pulling the food from. I also learned that fish is not supposed to smell fishy (laughs) it was the most amazing thing I ever learned.

What inspired you to become a vegan?
I think working in the food industry and seeing the process with a lot of food made me more concerned and cautious of what I was putting in my body and learning the different health benefits that went along with being vegan. I think that definitely pushed me in the right direction. I had a little bit of a health scare where they believed I had cancer. I decided, yes I love meat, I think it tastes amazing, it’s a beautiful thing but as far as putting it in my body, I can no longer do that if I want to have high energy levels, sleep well at night, (this sounds vain but) if I want my skin to look great and glow (laughs). I had to cut out all the harmful things from my body.

What is the best advice you could offer to someone that would like to transition into veganism?
I would say, definitely don’t go cold turkey. I tried that. When I transitioned, I went pescatarian first, went to vegetarianism, and then went vegan. I think that helped me on my path. I think if someone tried to go strictly vegan, right off the back it can be very challenging. Here in Atlanta, there are not a lot of vegan options and if you work a crazy schedule, it’s hard to find healthy options at a certain time at night. Just transitioning and being careful with the items you put in your body. If you do go vegan, I would suggest going raw or meal prep so you don’t backtrack and go pick up a cheeseburger (laughs).

What are your plans for the future? What can we expect to see from Chef Cat Turner in the future?

Well, I am happy where I am now being the Sous Chef for Delaware North Sportservice for the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park but I would definitely love to be an executive chef soon or I would love to one day have a show. I’ve always said that I wanted to be the black Rachel Ray (laughs) because I enjoy people just as much as I enjoy food and making things awesome!

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All images provided by Chef Cat Turner