Longtime Natchez chef Terranova dies

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 23, 2002

NATCHEZ &045; John-Martin Terranova, executive chef at Dunleith, was known to many people in Natchez for his creations in the kitchen.

But to his co-workers, he was not only a talented chef but also a close friend. Terranova, 40, died Sunday morning in New Orleans of complications following surgery. In recent weeks he had married his longtime girlfriend Nicole Lefebrve.

&uot;He was so much fun to get to know,&uot; said John Holyoke, manager of Dunleith.

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Holyoke recalled meeting Terranova &045; known simply as &uot;John-Martin&uot; to many people in town &045; shortly after both moved to Natchez in 1991. Over the years they became friends, then co-workers at various restaurants.

Terranova, a New Orleans native, began work in Natchez when Lady Luck Casino came to town. The top graduate in culinary arts at Johnson and Wales University, he had also worked in Charleston, S.C., Atlanta and Memphis.

In Natchez, he had also been chef and owner at Liza’s Restaurant and chef at the eponymous John Martin’s Restaurant at Natchez Under-the-Hill.

Holyoke said Terranova loved taking care of his customers as well as his co-workers. He used nicknames for everyone, and if you didn’t have one, he called you &uot;Daddy.&uot;

Renee Adams, one of Terranova’s co-workers at Dunleith, said Terranova’s loss will be felt by many people in Natchez.

&uot;He was one of the most intelligent, creative and humorous people I knew,&uot; she said. &uot;It’s going to be hard to replace the working relationship I had with him.&uot;

Holyoke said he and Terranova began nearly every day at Dunleith with a conversation over coffee.

&uot;He knew what it took to keep a kitchen running,&uot; Holyoke said.

Terranova liked to pretend to put on the &uot;airs of a temperamental chef,&uot; Holyoke said. But he really wasn’t like that at all.

&uot;He always did exactly what (customers) asked him to do,&uot; Holyoke said. &uot;He would do it in a heartbeat.&uot;

He also enjoyed talking to anyone who called Dunleith looking for advice about the best ingredients for anything from meatloaf to Thanksgiving dinner.

&uot;He loved to talk to people,&uot; Holyoke said. &uot;He was classic like that.&uot;

In addition to those impromptu training sessions, though, Terranova trained many people in Natchez who now work at The Castle.

&uot;He has people he taught who followed him, who now work at Dunleith,&uot; Holyoke said. &uot;Those people are now getting the opportunity to use what he taught them.&uot;

But Terranova’s friends and family will not miss just his professional talents.

Holyoke said he has lost a friend; Adams said she has lost someone who is &uot;like a brother&uot; to her.

&uot;John-Martin would make comments that only I could pick up, quotes from old movies or TV shows,&uot; Holyoke said. &uot;We used to write e-mails challenging each other to remember old quotes from films.

&uot;Natchez has a lot of personalities, and John-Martin is a personality,&uot; Holyoke said. &uot;We’ve lost someone who has a real gift.&uot;

Funeral arrangements for Terranova are incomplete at Laird Funeral Home.