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Now reading: Chic-chats with Chelsea Turowsky: cooking is a storytelling

March 01, 2024 People

Chic-chats with Chelsea Turowsky: cooking is a storytelling

Chelsea Turowsky is an American chef and artist born in New York and currently residing in Berlin. After spending a decade in San Francisco studying poetry, Chelsea’s work is a fusion of bold, fresh flavors with a delicate refined touch, deeply influenced by nature. She most often describes her cuisine as the feeling of being on vacation.


Our meeting revolves around her latest project, Velella, a space furnished with’s iconic pieces like Oly Stools and U Poufs. Situated in Berlin's Wedding neighborhood, Velella serves as a hosting space where Chelsea with a team prepare Omakase-style dinners and provide private rentals.

Join us for an interesting conversation with Chelsea as we delve into the significance of cooking as storytelling in her culinary journey.

Photos: Marie Staggat

In the culinary world, your dishes are like little works of art. How do you feel your cooking engages with the whole idea of celebrating joy as just a natural part of our everyday life?

Firstly: thank you. I consider cooking one of the strongest ways to communicate, perhaps only secondary to touch. Cooking is storytelling. The preparation process, often quite solitary, ends in connection. I am feeding you. I am sharing flavor, inspiration, the recipe itself. Mostly I am sharing something about myself with you and you are sharing something about yourself with me. The entire dance of cooking from start to finish is fulfilling because of this share. And I think sharing, the joy that comes with feeling close to people, is the most natural thing in the world. The primary reason that my studio does Omakase style for our dinners is the element of trust and exchange that is present when a guest does not know a menu in advance. This evokes a certain kind of joy, both playful and serious, which I feel is incredibly rewarding for both the chef and the guest.

How do you bring an element of unconventional creativity into your kitchen, and how does that translate into the flavors and presentation of your dishes?

I am an unconventional thinker so this part is difficult to define. As a synesthete, how I relate to flavor and color is often surprising to others but to me as normal as anything else. When developing a menu I generally work backwards: I consider feelings, memory, sensations, sounds, images, and work to translate those notions onto the plate. What does a certain feeling taste like? I want a dish that looks like ink, the bottom of the sea, cherry blossoms falling to the ground. I am trying to explain something and food is the language. I think one of the reasons my food does not look like other people’s is that I am writing a poem when I am composing a dish. I have never shared it with anyone and I am writing it as I am cooking and it is for you. This is also why I have chosen to open a studio and not a restaurant. The menu is as much about painting or poetry as it is about food. Once the ideas are there, we can move on to the general ethos of our kitchen: fresh, bright flavors which feel good in your body and perhaps even ground you, give you ideas. The dish is a conversation.

Fresh, bright flavors which feel good in your body and perhaps even ground you, give you ideas. The dish is a conversation.

Chelsea Turowsky

Can you recall a dish that holds a special memory for you, whether it's tied to a personal experience or a moment shared with others?

So much of what I do/cook involves sense of place. Sometimes I talk about my style of cooking as vacation food, though another word for that is simply tropical. At nine years old I left the country for the first time for Isla Mujeres, Mexico. It rained for days and in the middle of the storm we sat in a local restaurant, wetness and stray kittens at our feet. They brought a long white fish hot and freshly grilled and we ate it with our hands. This is the first meal I remember eating, and to this day, it is my favorite thing to cook. It’s not only about the freshness and the simplicity but also about the moment. Me, braids in my hair, the freedom and love I felt eating with my hands beside my father, discovering how fun food could be and how variant the dishes depending on your geography. The desire to replicate this moment, led me to cook and craft tables.

We took great pleasure in teaming up to furnish your culinary studio in the new Velella location. What exciting plans do you have in store for the future there?

We are thrilled to have decorating the new location. Velella lives beside our cooking studio- the two rooms are separated by translucent walls reminiscent of a Japanese tea room. Velella is a space for hosting. This will take many forms. We will be open for regular dinner service from March onwards for our Omakase tasting menus and we are also open for collaborations with various creative fields and practices. The space, which seats roughly 35 guests, is available for private rentals, workshops, and photoshoots. Now that we have the location, we will organically be shifting the pop up format of the studio toward hosting exclusively at Velella- the space, which has been designed to be easily transformable depending on the event, is our new home, and we invite you in.

Beyond the hustle of the kitchen, what's your favorite way to unwind at home? Any guilty pleasures or comfort rituals that bring you joy?

In truth I seem to always be moving, but when I am not in the kitchen myself, I love to be cooked for. I spend my free time in bed, cloud watching when I can, and I love to work with my hands and with textile, so when I am not cooking I generally have some other type of textile or craft project brewing in the background. I suppose my biggest guilty pleasure is Haribo!

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