Terrell Joseph Brunet

06/20/1962 - 03/05/2021

One of a kind, a bon vivant, the life of the party… a generous and welcoming person who loved to care for others. He will be missed by so many.

Memorial in Oakland
Sunday, May 16
(details to follow)

Thank you for sharing stories about Terrell

27 thoughts on “RIP”

  1. Terrell had such a way about him. He was so smooth and loved to entertain and cook for his friends. I thought of him as the Macgyver of cooking. If all you had in the fridge was some leftover rice, a stalk of celery, one carrot and some old shrimp shells, he would come out with a 4-star Michelin dinner. He was a country boy but loved the finer things in life. A true Gemini.

    When I first met him in 1993 (I think?), he came to my house in Berkeley from SF on his motorcycle in the pouring rain with one of Seamus’ new puppies tucked into his leather jacket. That sweet puppy (Miss Kitty) ended up staying with me for a while and then moved to his brother Mark’s house (her forever home) but not before eating all of my shoes and a designer coat when I was at work.

    Terrell had more friends than I could even count and he loved to putter in the garden, paint and draw. He also loved to watch 3-4 football games at a time and would roll our 3 TV sets (small, medium and large) into the bedroom during the football season, essentially locking himself in there and watching all of the games at once. I never really got it, but it sure sparked joy in his heart.

    He loved his Mama more than life. He cherished his family and friends fiercely. The amount of love and pride he had for Trey and Neely would make one’s heart explode. We didn’t talk much over the last few years but when we did, he gushed about both of them often. He knew how lucky he was to have that love in his life.

    It’s surreal to think that he’s gone. But I hope that he is at that great big, yummy, sexy, decadent dinner party in the sky with a bunch of his most beloved artists of decades past, enjoying a deep philosophical conversation, drinking his favorite wine and eating a rich, scrumptious meal.

    Terrell, you will be missed, my friend. Laissez le bon temps rouler. xox

  2. Terrell-full of life. Lot’s of delicious adventures. Never complacent. Always cooking something up. My wife’s special cousin who we were expecting to move to the desert so we could enjoy the next decade or two with. So glad we have such deep and wonderful memories of a his spirit and his friendship.

  3. Great chef, great man. He took me in when I had no where else to go. He’s the reason I have such a good work ethic and nurtured my love for cooking. Love the man, no matter how much I fucked up he always turned my fuck ups into lessons and I appreciate that.

  4. T Bone,
    My brother from another mother. You were not the life of the party. You were the party. Now you’re gone but the party goes on. I know you would have wanted it that way. I’ll never look at a Po Boy, eat gumbo, or sip bourbon without thinking of you. I know they have some delicious Cajun Creole Cuisine beyond those Pearly Gates.

    Laissez les bons temps rouler!

    ⚜️⚜️⚜️⚜️⚜️⚜️ ⚜️⚜️⚜️

  5. In a word, Terrell Brunet, for me, is LOVE and all it encompasses. I’ve taken a bit of time to reflect on the grace and blessing of his presence in my life and through the tears, some sad, and some that pour out with pure joy, I am at peace knowing that the very last words I said to him were I love you and I’m here if you need me. I took a look back at our encounters and communication over the years and I can say without a doubt the underlying theme in our friendship was love. My darling was how he addressed me most often and I will forever hear those words, no matter who speaks them, in his voice. We laughed, we cried, we shared appropriate and inappropriate (my favorite) things, comments, memes, cartoons, food, drink, a love of sports, whatever. He worked hard and he played hard, he was always there to lend a hand, a recipe, and a technique. He was a true believer in shared knowledge, a gifted teacher, able to enlighten others with a mixed bag of southern-charm, a bit of classic Americana, a touch of California, and a wealth of information. Terrell was genuine, soulful, and wholesome and exuded a “high-cotton” aura everywhere he went. I will miss you my sweet friend and will, on occasion, raise a glass, (if you are in the know here – a “bowl of cheerios,”) to let you know that you are in my heart forever. R.I.P. Sweet man. Save me a seat at the bar; order my bourbon and a bowl of red beans and rice. Until we meet again.

  6. I have so many memories of you. Too many to count. Too many to list. Matt and I miss you deeply.

    When we first met, we would look forward to seeing you at the Northstar every weekend. White T-shirt, LSU hat, and saying “Here comes Arkansas!” in a way that always made us feel like we were home. You saw the good in everyone, and you welcomed people into your life with open arms. 

    When we got married six years ago, you made the most beautiful meal for our rehearsal dinner that any of us had ever tasted. When we pulled up for the dinner, you were wearing your chef uniform (really looking the part), glass of wine in hand, and my mom (who at the time had not met you) said, “Is that your chef?! He’s drinking wine!”  Yes, of course he is. That’s Terrell.

    A few years ago, we took a trip to New Orleans. We ate crawfish and fried fish in a camp that seemed to sway like the ocean. We sat outside and got eaten alive (or at least I did) and stared at the horizon. We went to Bacchanal and you invited every stranger to our table to share our wine. You gave a drunk history tour on the streets of New Orleans and passers-by couldn’t help but stop and listen to you. We got to see your hometown and catch a show at the Dew Drop, and I still remember the feel of the heavy southern air. Thank you for sharing your home with us. New Orleans will always remind me of you.

    Two years ago, we took a trip to France. We ate ALL the butter, and all the bread. Neely and I picked up random foods at the French supermarket because we knew that no matter what unusual foods we picked up, you would make something beautiful out of it (you did, of course, every time). We went to Chablis and your love of the wine and the place really showed. We stopped by Cafe Fanny for lunch and you charmed the owner (that was just what you did) and we ate and ate and drank wine until we were very late for our next appointment. We made so many beautiful memories. 

    Those trips are the big memories, but there are so many smaller ones too. You always told me I was beautiful, even when I didn’t feel that way at that moment. You were the first to start an 80s dance party, and your partner dancing skills made me feel like I had them too. Everything you cooked was full of love, and you always enjoyed the good things in life. Every time I came to your house, it felt like I was part of your family. You and Neely showed me how strong and close a community of people can be. I am a different person now because of knowing you.

    There is more to say (there will always be more). I think about you every day. I love you and miss you, my friend.

  7. Peter B. Snyderman

    Terrell was that rare individual who accepted people as they were. He understood that we were all flawed and accepted the flaws as part of the unique recipe (I needed to somehow incorporate cooking). Terrell’s love of food, music, dogs, people, kindness, respect, wine, teaching & learning, and life was legendary.

    We first met in 1992 when he joined our team at The Blue Light Cafe as our chef. We met up again in 2005, post-Katrina, when he joined Elite Cafe as our GM.

    He put up with me, and all my many ridiculousnesses, and never judged. I could always count on him for support, perspective, and friendship.

    T, you’re cooking in the penthouse now … keep on inspiring❣️

    Much love & respect, always, and thank you for nearly three decades of friendship, pbs

  8. I met Terrell during the summer of 2009 at Hotel Shattuck and Five Restaurant in Berkeley, CA. One of the first things I notice about Terrell upon meeting him was his absolute love for food, wine, and hospitality; his knowledge was second to none. Some of the best time I had in the hospitality industry was working for him at High Cotton. We will always joke about the silliest things. Terrell is always the life of the party, his energy is so infectious. There were never a dull moment in presence.

    The one thing that really concreted our friendship was his genuine love for people and to make us happy. No matter how I was feeling when we meet for lunch, a drink or even a quick txt, he had his way to brighten me up. He was never judgy, he always encouraged me to do what I felt was right. I will always know I am cared for whenever I am with him.

    Terrell, it was an honor to call you a friend, you are truly a unicorn of a human being. Thank you for your love and the knowledge you’ve instilled in me over the years. Thank you for teaching me that it’s important to find and be my true self, and to pursue whatever dreams and ambitions I have.

    I love you and miss you. RIP

  9. It’s very difficult to believe that you are not here with us but I know that you are here in spirit. You touched so many lives in so many amazing ways. Your passion for your family’s deep southern roots was impressive because you were like a walking encyclopedia of historical events and ancestors that I had never heard of. One of the funniest memories I have is moving to NYC in 2005 and taking my Mom’s advice to call my cousin, Terrell, who I vaguely remember spending time with many years ago while growing up. I was too young and shy to make conversation with he and his brother, Mark so I remembered them but didn’t know them very well. Nervously, I picked up the phone and called him after I arrived in NYC and re-introduced myself. There was this long silence on the other end of the phone and just as I was feeling uncomfortable, he said, well why don’t you and your friends come on over to my restaurant one day. Turned out that Mark was also in town and we all ended up having a blast that weekend! From this day on, I might as well have been a sister. I was studying on my days off from work with the airline and he invited me to spend time at Sequoia in one of the private rooms that faced the Hudson. He brought lunch to me which was completely unexpected. Terrell also helped my friends and I find a place to stay in Soho until we could find a place to call home. I spent time with his family and helped with Trey when they needed a night out. Fast forward a few years later and we ended up at Jazz Festival on the same weekend. Life was just more fun when Terrell was part of your day! Like so many of his friends and family have already commented, he loved with all of his heart and soul. I miss your kind messages and your sweet soul, Terrell. You are so loved and missed here. Until we meet again…

  10. There’s a picture up there of Chef Brunet and me—he’s in a blue chef jacket and I’m in a short-sleeve white one. We’re behind my kids’ former school in St Helena, CA.

    Every year the school has a huge dinner-and-auction fundraiser. I think this was in 2012 or so. T agreed to cook with me and my crew; it was family style dinner for about 350ppl, and the theme was Southern Comfort or some such; I’m sure I still have the invitation and program in a box somewhere.

    Chef Brunet was my Skills instructor at the CIA back in 1999. He put me in touch with the first of a string of mentors that led, through short degrees of separation, to the best chefs in the country, and I have him to thank for that.

    “One day you will look back on your past efforts and laugh. That which will be, on the day you laugh, is also available to you here and now.”

    I’ve never met anyone who lived for the moment and in the moment as much as Terrell. This made it a blast to be with him (and a struggle to plan anything!). If I had never met him, I sincerely believe that I would feel the lack.

  11. Uncle Terrell, not being able to talk football or food with you or cook with you ever again will be one of the hardest parts of all this, the other hardest part will be not seeing you express your love for your son Trey, a bond that not many children have. You always had such a positive out look on life and were a genuinely happy person and I some day wish to be like you in that way. You were a fine chef and touched a lot of people’s hearts and You are a huge part in why I’m the chef I am today. The more I explore my career, the more people I find connected to the Culinary Institute and you and every single person has had something nice to say about you. You were a man of passion and fine living. A bright light in a dark place and the world and a lot of people in it are going to miss you dearly. Rest easy, Unc.

  12. Skylar points to Mr. T every time we pass your photo in the hallway. It was so sweet the last time she saw you and she wanted to give you a hug and a kiss before you left our house.

    I never realized how often things remind me of you – food, wine, louisiana, plants – until now that there’s no one at the other end of my texts I want to send. I have your favorite plant now, and will do my best to take care of her. I guess I also have to take over the role of high priestess of our succulent cult of 2 (now 1 😢 ).

    There’s so much more I could say, but I’ll simply say this: I miss you dearly T. Thank you for everything 💚

  13. Andrew Vaughan

    One of the last meals we shared was trout amandine. We loved eating together and talking about technique. “This is some damn good rice” we would comment. I had this dish yesterday. It reminded me of you and I shed a tear always full of love and thinking of you.

  14. Joel Messerer

    Birthday toast, Paris 2018
    Making good memories with family and friends–and soon-to-be friends—starts with marvelous food and robust libations.
    Boy did Terrell get this.
    Warm like the sunshine, beyond talented, benevolent, a gentleman and a freak for the ages.
    Cheers to a life well lived and shared generously.
    Miss you and love you always T.

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