Hello! My name is Sara Tercero and I am the Betterfoodguru. I love whole foods and scratch cooking. This is the story of how I became a chef and food blogger.
How I started cooking
I have been interested in food and cooking since I was a small child. My parents were decent cooks who enjoyed eating. In our home, we ate a lot of the pasta, meats, cold cuts, and casseroles that were typical for an Irish/Italian American family in small town Massachusetts. My Mother and Nana taught me to cook simple things with them very early like instant puddings, pancakes, cookies and scrambled eggs. Somehow I always favored salads and savory dishes over sweets. As a child I spent my days mostly reading, drawing and dreaming rather than running or playing sports. Creative pursuits were always much higher on my priority list than physical activities so cooking became a hobby that I enjoyed very much.
I started cooking omelets and Pasta sauces independently around age 9 and was obsessed with perfecting my cooking techniques. Over the next couple of years I branched out a little by adding veggies like mushrooms and peppers and broccoli, making lasagna and meatballs, things that did not push my family's comfort zone much. I enjoyed the creative aspect of cooking as much as the eating and found immense joy in feeding people and the praise that it garnered. This is when the first seeds of becoming a creative chef were planted.
How I became a Vegetarian
Then as a teenager I was lucky to date a boy from a few towns over whose Mother was a holistic practitioner and had a broader view of healthy living and Whole Foods. I admired her fiercely and enjoyed eating dinner at their house often over the couple of years that I dated her son. Their house always smelled so good of essential oils and her Massage Therapy office fascinated me. They ate things like stir fry with sesame oil, tons of fresh garlic, veggies, seeds, nuts, and rice that wasn't out of a box! I was obsessed with the new flavors and I began incorporating these ingredients into my own cooking. That is when I started to push the envelope and announced that I was going vegetarian.
Soon I left home for college. At Umass Amherst where I studied Fine Arts, I was lucky to live in Butterfield, a co-op dormitory that had its own private dining hall in the basement. The food at Butterfield was unreal, so many veggie options, curries, fresh salads, stirfrys, and exotic spices. My mind was blown and I was able to embrace vegetarianism fully. I also had the opportunity to work in the kitchen and immerse in kitchen culture for the first time. This community at Umass was intrinsic in the formation of who I am today. A Chef, an Artist, a Global Citizen, a Tree Hugging Liberal and a Woman. The connections and expansion I made in my mindset there have been second to none.
How I started working in Food
Later while still going to Umass I began working at Bread and Circus a health food store in Hadley, in the prepared foods department. Working there was a catalyst for me to start taking cooking seriously and doing Fine art took a backseat. All the vegetables and fruits!! All the different grains!! So many flavors and textures and colors! Cooking was like painting for me, instinctual, visceral, visual, textural, and most importantly it was experimental. My youth was all about being experimental and breaking molds on every levels but thats a story I will delve deeper into some other day. This particular story is about my employment history and how I became a creative Chef and blogger.
The kitchen got so hot for me that I quit school and moved to Boston where I worked at Whole Foods as a prepared food Chef and got further exposed to diversity in the big city. I lived with about 10 people in a house and would use my newfound cooking know-how to wow the fam with killer vegetarian foods. I also embraced the counterculture wholeheartedly and toured with the Grateful Dead and Phish and relished in my care-free youth.
How I fell in love with cooking
I then spent a summer living in Ogunquit Maine, a hub for Tourism and Hospitality and a Mecca for the LGBTQ community. This was my first true restaurant, in the weeds, working HARD experience. I relished every moment. I woke up at 5 am and dragged myself to Joan's Breakfast to wash dishes. After I'd hang on the beach and then go to my nighttime gig at Roberto's where I was pot washer. I was HOOKED. 10-12 hours a day in the thick of the rush, feeding hundreds of hungry tourists, sweating, moving faster than I had ever moved in my life, learning, laughing, yelling profanities and LOVING LIFE. This was the summer that Jerry Garcia died, which I believe changed the trajectory of my lifeline. The loss of my counterculture guru anchored me in one spot long enough to really start my path to becoming a chef.
How I ended up in California
After that I moved to California for the first time. I lived with a family in the Berkeley hills(whose son I met in Boston fresh off Phish tour) and gave them a hand with their kid and cooked dinner nightly for the family in exchange for room and board. This was personal cheffing at its best, the Mother would give me cash every morning and I would walk down to the legendary Gourmet Ghetto and pick up all the fresh food and have dinner ready when they got home. They delighted in my nightly creations which further fueled my ambitions to be a creative cook. This also began my love affair with California.
While living with the family, I embellished my resume and grabbed two line cooking jobs that helped me to hone my skills. One was at the iconic Cafe Mediteraneum on Telegraph Avenue where I learned to short order cook breakfast and the other at Micheal's Vegetarian Diner which was run by some sort of cult where I learned even more about vegetarianism and counterculture. I fell in love with a guy there who taught me a lot about living a bohemian lifestyle and adventure but then life spiraled out of control and I returned to Massachusetts with only a backpack to my name and a bunch of new skills. There is a really interesting story here but I will stay focused on my history as a creative chef.
How I became a Chef
Back in Worcester Ma, I worked at a natural foods store but found my culinary home at Tortilla Sam's, a tex-mex taqueria where I grew exponentially. At age 24, I was kitchen manager. I was the conductor, calling orders to the other cooks, plating and expediting. With creative license to make the specials, I was in heaven. This manner of creating food art was ideal for me as a bohemian, I never had to cart around art materials or canvass and my creations were enjoyed, devoured and gone. The ultimate in BE HERE NOW art forms. We garnered a following for our fresh, atypical flavors. Although I made vegetarian food a menu priority, I began eating meat more often. I was made a junior partner and learned restaurant admin. Several years later we sold Tortilla Sam's. So back to Oakland California I went with some buddies to form a little commune of sorts.
How I ended up in California again
I took some time off from working and fully basked in the Bay Area California lifestyle. I walked and biked to farmer's markets and the amazing Berkeley Bowl daily, played pool in the sun at Thalassa, and grew heirloom tomatoes in our commune-like apartment home on Alcatraz Ave. that was full of our make-shift family. Nightly I cooked dinner for the crew and weekly we had amazing dinner parties where I experimented with so many fresh ingredients.
After about 6 months of glorious leisure I decided I wanted to work again. I got a job at Westside Cafe in Berkeley where I learned about grilling vegetables and marinades from the owner. Truly embodying a greener lifestyle, Janice used all recycled containers and bought exotic grains in bulk. I learned to bake bread and joyfully grilled mushrooms and picked green beans to my hearts content. This job was intrinsic to my prowess as a vegetarian cook. I worked there off and on over a decade filling in for people , and it was always a fun side gig.
At this point I grabbed any job I interviewed for, so once I felt I was not learning I moved on. I went for a part time job at the famous Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe, then I then went to Jeanty at Jack's, a french bistro in San Francisco where I was Sous Chef. Although it was a huge learning experience, French was not for me. When I was offered the job of Chef and kitchen manager at Rudy's, I immediately accepted. I worked there for the better part of a decade, helping to establish the place as a brunch destination. I lived and breathed that restaurant. There I worked every weekend on the line slinging eggs and omelets , bennedicts, burgers, shouting orders, swearing, laughing and sweating. This coincidentally is when I met my husband. He became a line cook at Rudy's around the time that I was leaving.
How I became an actor and a yogi
All of my hard work at Rudy's culminated in the ultimate reward for me. We were featured on Diner's Drive In's and Dives and I was on TV for my craft. It was crazy how much I loved being on camera. So I promptly left the Chef industry and delved into film auditions and acting classes. Check IMDB, I even have a page with credits.
Simultaneously while acting, I started a very active yoga practice which for the first time ever had me feeling strong and athletic and lean. So I got certified to teach yoga as well. I got engaged, quit smoking which I had been doing for almost 18 years and stopped drinking like a fish. Happy, healthy and engaging fully with my paramount goal of a healthy lifestyle, I became pregnant with my first child at age 38.
How I started a family
After that, I embraced Motherhood and Marriage. I was not Cheffing anymore but cooking was still my fave. My yoga practice fell off. My ambitions for film work were dashed by motherhood. Without putting the baby into costly daycare the flexibility needed for an acting career was impossible. I went back to the kitchen when the opportunity arose to be chef of Rudy's now two locations. My love of creative cooking continued to bloom. In the meantime at age 40 I had my son and found myself working full time with two small children. Since both hubby and I are chefs we were able to work full time and pass the proverbial torch. We avoided daycare traps but really pushed the envelope on the exhaustion. We wondered if living on the East Coast could get us off the hamster wheel of work and debt to enjoy our family more.
How we ended up in Massachusetts
Then at age 41 expecting my third child, and after living in California for 16 years, we moved to Massachusetts. The Bay Area was getting too expensive for a family of 5 and we wanted to buy a house. We chose a growing community, that is super diverse, has big culinary and arts scenes, and decent schools. As a mixed race family it is important that we live in a diverse and progressive community. We are raising our kids with a global mentality. Teaching them to reject sexism, racism and homophobia in all forms is at the top of my priority list. Also living Bi-Coastally continues to be a goal of mine. The ideal of having a home on both coasts will allow enjoyment of all the best parts of the US.
Now we are celebrating our fifth year in Massachusetts. A lot has happened in these 5 years both personally and professionally. On a personal level, we are thriving as a family of 5. Of course we struggle as most people do with the rigors of childrearing. But we strive to evolve as parents and always are grateful for what we have, 3 healthy and special kids. I lost my Dad in 2017 which was a major blow. Then I had a Chef job that was a terrible disappointment. I rebounded stronger for it and then did some consulting work and started Instagramming like crazy.
How I became Chef and Food Blogger Betterfoodguru
Creating Betterfoodguru was a pivotal moment for me. When I started it, I wanted to share and keep myself accountable for healthy food choices. But as time went on, I began finding joy in the regularity of sharing and the connections I made. Instagram opened my eyes to this whole culinary world on the internet that I didn't know existed. It was the ideal place for a Creative Chef like myself. I started studying up on food photography and blogging and realized that this was my chance to change careers. Over the last 3 years, I have built a large community on Instagram, Facebook and Tok Tok where I share my recipes, anecdotes and opinions about products. I am grateful to my followers for helping me realize my dreams of sharing healthy food and making a living off of my creativity.
Thanks for reading the story of how I became a chef and blogger. Stay tuned for more recipes and stories. Please sign up for my newsletter to get the latest scoop on what I am up to and new content that is available for digestion. 😉