Tere of Transformation
By Lorna Oppedisano | Photography by Alexis Emm
Life is full of surprises.
“You have one idea for yourself,”Teresa Martini mused as she peered through oversized sunglasses.
“I thought I would be an organic farmer or travel the world or whatever free-spirited, crazy thing I thought I was going to do,” she continued, her long dreadlocks shifting on her back as she tilted her head in reflection. “And I just have to trust when God or the universe or whatever you want to call it points you in a direction.”
If someone had told a young Tere (pronounced “tree”) that years later, she’d have two kids, be food and bakery manager at Recess Coffee & Roastery, participate in Syracuse Fashion Week and have spent years as a doula — and those are just a few of her adventures — she’d have said they’re crazy.
But it’s all about trusting in the process, Tere explained. You just “trust and go,” she said.
When the Syracuse native ventured off to college, Tere attended Paul Smith’s College in the Adirondacks. Although the school is widely known for the culinary arts, Tere had an interest in environmental science and earned a bachelor’s degree in forestry — a beginning that eventually led her to running two kitchens.
After finishing the last two years of undergrad at SUNY ESF, Tere worked for the Department of Agriculture near Batavia. But she soon felt a calling to move to Vermont, where she had her first encounter in the food industry, serving and bartending at a farm-totable restaurant.
Though she wasn’t professionally trained, Tere’s heart lies in the farm-to-table movement. She grew up in the kitchen with her Italian great-aunts and grandmother. Family centered around food, she explained. So an underlying passion and knack for cooking and baking is no surprise.
“I was always a gourmet chef at home,” Tere said.
After about three years in Vermont, she returned to the Syracuse area. Then, about two years ago, Tere heard Recess was looking for a kitchen manager to oversee a small food menu.
Tere started working about 10 to 15 hours a week for the local roastery. In the time since, the position has evolved into a full-time job. With a few parameters in place, Tere was given carte blanche to expand the menu, she said. She’s learned a lot, and Recess’ food offerings have grown exponentially, she explained.
“I really want to have what we offer — in terms of food and baked goods — to be gourmet, but really accessible food for everybody,” she said.
While they do offer traditional options — some of which are her grandmother’s recipes — Tere’s also branched out to innovative items with unique flavors. Recess has worked with nearby farms, and also collaborated with small local businesses, such as The Speach Family Candy Shoppe and Arctic Island.
Along with running the kitchens at Recess and caring for her two young children, Tere is also involved with Syracuse Fashion Week.
In the event’s first year, hair stylist Shannon Fleming asked Tere to hula hoop for entertainment. When Tere met with executive director Lisa Marie Butler, a question was posed to her: “Hey, how about you model?”
Like her part at Recess, as time progressed, Tere’s involvement with Syracuse Fashion Week evolved. This year, she was the program cover model. It’s particularly exciting because with her dreadlocks, body shape and overall look, Tere’s not a traditional model, she explained.
“And that’s what’s really cool about fashion week, too — it’s inclusive,” she said.
There’s a common theme through most of Tere’s endeavors: the power of women.
After giving birth to her own children, who are now 5 and 6 years old, she felt drawn to work with other women in birth, and became a certified doula through Doula Trainings International. For about three years, she helped coach women through their experiences.
“I really fell in love with women and their strength and their power and how they can transform,” Tere said.
From that, she began hosting women’s circles. The groups would discuss everything from birth to trauma to transformation. Women don’t always step into their own power, Tere said, explaining that’s something she wants to help people address.
While she hasn’t hosted a women’s circle in a while, that empowerment factor still sits on her mind. About two years ago, Tere began taking master’s classes at Oswego for psychology, and still toys with the idea of earning a master’s degree in social work or mental health therapy. She’d like to be a “conduit of transformation for people,” Tere explained.
In all she does — wherever that trusted process takes her — her children are her motivation, Tere said, and people are her inspiration.
“Humans inspire me,” Tere said. “We’re living in some really tough times, but throughout all of that, I just look and I see beautiful people everywhere doing amazing things.” SWM