Kathy Turner Helps You Up Your Barbecue Game

The business owner’s signature product is a tribute to her father.

For more than 10 years, Kathy Turner has been offering up her Cook’s Best barbecue baste. We talked to her about her business, which is inspired by her father’s barbecue sauce creations. 

Illustration by Chris Danger

Where did your recipe come from? 

My cooking and creating new recipes come from my dad, Ernie Cook. I remember many times when my dad would spontaneously talk with my mom and my siblings on a Saturday or Sunday morning, asking us what we thought about having grilled beef and bacon kabobs with grilled veggies tonight for dinner. He would head out to the market, pick up the ingredients, and without a cookbook or writing down the steps to make this dish, he would just begin chopping and stirring away creating a barbecue sauce to slather on the kabobs. He relied on his taste buds. As a young girl, I would stand close by watching him cook with a happy heart, knowing he was making this for his family. I would get to taste test a sip of his rich tangy sauce. That first creation of his sauce stayed in my food memory bank ever since.

How did you come up with the name? 

I had a great response from family and different people who sampled my sauce when I would make it in my kitchen. I thought, Maybe I can bring my sauce to market. My parents were with us in the early stages of finding my way to have my sauce produced. I remember being in our kitchen with my husband and children. We all talked together, thought of ideas to name the sauce. We all thought of our kids’ grandparents, how much we loved Grandpa’s sauce and all of his cooking, so without hesitation, Cook’s Best Inc. was born, in honor of my parents, Irene and Ernie Cook.

Did your dad get to taste any of your products? What did he think? 

He really enjoyed it as did my mom! I worked hard to get the sauce’s sweet and tangy balance to taste just like his. They really were pleased to know that people would be cooking their specialty dishes with Cook’s Best in their homes with their family and friends.  

Do you have any favorite stories from customers? 

My husband was talking with a friend who had said that when she asked her son—who is a Marine and was heading to the Middle East—what he would like to bring along, one of two items he asked for was a bottle of Cook’s Best. My heart was really touched!

Another story comes from a family who enjoys my sauce. I received a text message [last] Fourth of July from our friend with a picture of their dinner table with Cook’s Best BQ sauce prominently displayed next to the pork chops. The text read: Time to eat! Your sauce was a very important part of our July 4th dinner! One of their daughters said, “I could drink that barbecue sauce!” I loved that! I always, always, feel connected to my parents when I know that people cook with my sauce and have a bottle of extra sauce on their table. My parents loved people, meeting new people, learning about different traditions with their families.

Through a co-worker, I was told about her 92-year-old grandma, Norma. Before the co-worker left for the day, I quickly packed up some sauce to gift. Grandma Norma and I became pen pals, and I received a lovely thank you card from her. In her first paragraph of the note she wrote, “To you, my new friend: Every night, I would say to my family ‘give me the Red Stuff.’ I put it on mashed potatoes, ham salad, and most anything else.” Her friendship touches my heart deeply and when I go back to read her cards, I am most pleased that Cook’s Best brought us together. 

What are your overall goals for your business? 

While I currently have my sauce available at Pipkin’s Market in Blue Ash and Holzman Meats on Montgomery Road, I hope to expand the number of places locally where my sauce is sold in stores. I am also looking forward to redesigning my website to allow my customers to order online and welcome recipes from people to share their specialty dishes. Finally, I would like to someday market my other creations. I have nearly a dozen other delicious concoctions ranging from dressings to hors d’oeuvre toppings to sauces.

How do you come up with ideas for new products? 

In my home kitchen, I think of new recipes all the time. Just recently, I was at Pipkin’s Market and the variety of lemons I saw, such as pink lady and even a lime, which had yellow skin. My mind began thinking, seeing vinaigrettes made with different types of lemons. I was so excited, finding a variety of lemons and lime, it was like I found treasure! At moments like these, I get to work in my kitchen, rely on my senses, add this and that, [and that’s] when I discover the most wonderful new sauces and dishes.  

FYI Cook’s Best is available is Pipkin’s Market in Blue Ash and Holzman Meats in Montgomery.

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