I caught up with Chef Terry Braggs the other day at Oakland’s Make Westing. With the smell of charcuterie and freshly squeezed exotic cocktails in the air, it was the perfect setting to philosophize with a local chef.
According to Chef Terry Braggs, you will find many chefs who are closeted artists of some sort. This is no surprise being that chefs are highly creative people. In an era where gourmet burger trucks and boutique, organic butcher shops are the norm, it makes sense that chefs are also regarded as artists.
The road to chef-hood wasn’t linear for Chef Braggs. He initially wanted to pursue fashion design. Financially, it made more sense to pursue a more practical form of art, so he attended the Culinary Arts program at Diablo Valley College. The culinary arts gave him a way to create, while ensuring a reliable income. “I love to be creative. I was able to find a career where I could express myself through food.” And create he did; Chef Braggs has honed his skills at various East Bay gems including Hibiscus, Bocanova, Va de Vi, The San Ramon Marriot, and many catering businesses. As he humbly listed all of the new and iconic places that he has cooked, Chef Braggs it was clear that he loves his profession.
The key to his success may lie in the fact that, like any tasty creative dish, he allows for improvisation. Chef Braggs has followed his opportunities and has relied on his skills and creativity to achieve success. He did not follow a strict recipe, and did not plan a straight course to being a successful chef; rather he trusted his instincts and stayed true to his initial goal of expressing himself creatively.
Whether it is teaching a cooking class at an underserved high school in Oakland, or catering a private, intimate event, he has a desire to share his passion with others. “I love that people are more and more becoming foodies! Good food is so accessible now; people get excited about going to the farmer’s market to buy kale!” Chef Braggs truly shines when giving private cooking lessons or catering an intimate event in someone’s home. “Many clients appreciate the intimacy of being themselves in their own home, but having a professional chef bring the restaurant to them.” This also allows for Chef Braggs to offer a unique menu, whether it is Indian, Italian, Soul Food, Vegan, or his own “home-style food”, to meet each client’s specific needs.
When asked his thoughts on the current East Bay foodie scene, Chef Braggs has one word: “Dope!” We concur, Chef! According to him, “…You can travel the world in the East Bay through the restaurants and grocery stores.” A few of his favorite spots are: The New Mecca Café in Pittsburg, Hibiscus in Oakland, Starr Meats of Berkeley and produce from Berkeley’s Monterey Market.
As luck would have it, Chef Braggs has recently been able to merge his two passions, cooking and fashion, as a new employee of Cayson Culinary Designs, a design firm for culinary clothing. Luckily for the East Bay and beyond, Chef Braggs continues to cook and cater private events, perhaps in your own home!
Below is one of Chef Bragg’s creative recipes:
Lobster Linguini by Chef Braggs
2 shallots, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
3 zucchini, diced
1 handful Parsley chopped, 1 bay leaf, chives
1 1/2 tsp. Tomato paste
2 cups Heavy cream
Fresh grated Parm. Cheese
1 box Linguini
(1) 2 1/2lb. Lobster or lobster meat
Tsp. Unsalted butter
For the sauce, heat a medium size pan on medium high heat and coat the bottom with olive oil. Saute shallots & garlic together until shallots are translusent. Add the zucchini, parsley, bay leaf, and a tsp. of unsalted butter, saute all together for about 3 minutes, season with salt & pepper. Just as the veggies are turning golden brown lower the heat to medium and add heavy cream and stir in the tomato paste.
Let simmer for 5-6 minutes, then stir in the parmesan cheese. Set sauce aside.
Cook pasta according to the directions on the box.
Heat lobster meat in a saute pan with a teaspoon of butter, season lightly with salt & pepper.
Combine everything into a large pot and serve immediately. Garnish with chopped chives and parmesan cheese.