Beverlie Terra, Executive Chef at , was already cooking up “farm to table” dinners as a young girl growing up in San Mateo and Santa Clara.
“My mother was a single working mother,” Terra explained. “So the cooking for my siblings fell on my sister then on me (mostly me because my sister was usually out and about). We were ‘foraging on the land’ so to speak before it became the new thing to do. I remember going into the orchards and picking fennel, mustard greens, bitter greens for dinner. Sometimes you would find wild chard or spinach.”
The Tradition Continues
And now, as one of the premier chefs in Santa Cruz County, she’s back at it as she prepares to wow diners with the upcoming Farm to Table Dinner Series at Chaminade, which starts Friday.
The Farm to Table movement developed from a grassroots effort by people who are concerned about food sustainability and who want to “eat local.” More and more chefs around the country are bringing this philosophy to their restaurants’ kitchens and dining tables.
Terra said what she enjoys most about cooking for the Farm to Table dinners is working with the farms.
“Seasonal items are so awesome!” she said. “How exciting to use zucchini blossoms, and then turn around and use English peas that have such a short growing season. Cooking food that has just been harvested, meat that has just been slaughtered is using flavors that a lot of people have never experienced. I also have fun creating menus at the last minute depending on what the farm has available.”
Keeping it Fresh, Keeping it Local
The farms she will be working with this year include Surfside Chickens in Watsonville, Yellow Wall Farm, a 3-acre family farm run by Allen and Judy Rose Hasty; Black Hen Farm, Route 1 Farms near Wadell Creek, Belle Farm, producers of Santa Cruz-grown olive oil, and Old Creek Ranch.
Terra credits Norbert Relecker, Chaminade General Manager, for bringing the “eat local” philosophy to Chaminade.
“Without his support, the Farm to Table dinners would have never come to fruition,” she said.
Using local producers is a year-round practice at Chaminade. Terra said, “We support local farms and use farm produce and sustainable seafood in our Linwood’s Restaurant.”
Road to Chaminade
Besides cooking for her family as a young girl, there were other important culinary influences in Terra’s childhood.
“Food has always been an integral part of my ‘formation,’” she said. “My grandparents owned various ‘Italian Restaurants’ in San Francisco and Palo Alto. We always made our own pasta, ravioli, pizza dough. Food was very ‘peasant style’ using fresh homemade ingredients that were seasoned well with herbs.”
But Terra hadn’t always planned on cooking as a career.
“Honestly, I didn’t start out with the idea of being a chef. Women weren’t really taken very seriously in the food profession,” she said. “I remember my first cookbook when I was 14 was Julia Child’s French Chef, and I remember starting to try different things for my family. Cooking was just something you did, not something that you made as a career.”
She studied court reporting in college and “dabbled in a couple of food ventures” such as a coffee house in the old Cooper House and making ravioli and selling it to Santa Cruz restaurants. When she decided court reporting was not for her, she considered culinary school, but questioned whether she wanted to pay the hefty tuition.
As things often serendipitously happen, Terra went wine tasting one weekend in Sonoma where she “met a young couple who owned a restaurant/hotel. I moved up the following week. My career began.”
Today, an accumulation of those earlier experiences influences Terra’s cooking.
“My cooking is simple, using fresh ingredients,” she said. “My flavors tend to be on the bold side, which is a reflection of my food styling from my youth.”
From our local farms to Chef Terra’s kitchen and, ultimately, to the diners at Chaminade—an “eat local” dining experience that should be remembered long after that delicious, final bite.
Here is a recipe generously provided by Chef Terra:
1 garlic clove, peeled
½ bunch fresh basil
2 tsp fresh lemon juice (preferably Meyer)
2 oz olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a food processor, finely chop the garlic clove. Add the basil and pulse until finely chopped. Add the lemon juice and olive oil, and pulse until all ingredients are combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper.