A Sad Farewell to Chef Terrell Brunet

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Chef Terrell Brunet. Photo via Facebook.

I was so terribly sorry and shocked to hear the news that chef Terrell Brunet unexpectedly passed away in March, which I just learned a couple weeks ago. He was such a big personality, so kind-hearted and a true bon vivant. Wearer of jaunty fedoras. Wicked gumbo-maker. It’s so hard when a light that shines that brightly goes dim, although I know his legacy will burn on with many fond memories and stories held in the hearts of those who loved and knew him. You can read some remembrances and see photos on the page linked above.

I first met Terrell back in 2006, when he was working at the Elite Cafe with chef pal Joanna Karlinsky, who has known him for years (since their days at the CIA). I asked her if she could share a remembrance of him and his culinary background, and she kindly obliged. Thank you, Jo.

“We’ve lost another one too soon. Terrell Brunet was a quintessential New Orleanian and never let anyone forget it. Intoxicating. Bawdy. Always ready to show you something new about himself. He graduated from the CIA in 1989, spent some of the 90’s in SF working at Julie’s Supper Club, Red Devil Lounge, Blue Light Café, and then returned to CIA as a chef-instructor. He loved it. Almost as much as his newborn son.

“But New Orleans called him back and he went to teach there. Hurricane Katrina hit him hard; the school closed and he lost all of his teaching tools. Interestingly for him, old friends were reopening the Elite Café, here in SF, and he came running to help. There he met his soon-to-be wife, Neely, and they made a home in Oakland. He loved throwing backyard parties and seeing his old students; teaching restaurant work, and returning to NOLA to play. He will be missed.”

There is going to be a memorial on Sunday May 16th, but due to Covid, the gathering is extremely limited in capacity. There is going to be a casual backyard gathering the day before to accommodate some of the folks who can’t fit into the memorial—If you want to reach out to Neely, you can email her here. Sending love and deep condolences to all of T’s family and many friends and students—he touched so many lives with his cooking and knowledge and big heart.