Elizabeth Terry was born and raised in Salem, Ohio, the eldest of six children, and went on a scholarship to Lake Erie College for Women. It was there she met Michael Terry, a student from Kenyon College and when she graduated with a degree in psychology in 1966, she and Michael married. Michael went on to law school and finally settled in Atlanta in 1968. We mention Michael, because it’s because of him that Elizabeth became known as the Accidental Chef, when he told her that “she’s become boring, do something”.
With no experience in cooking, she started selling cheese and specialty foods, and when a store nearby came up for sale, the Terry’s bought it and turned it into “Thyme For You”, a lunch shop. It became her Master’s Degree in business. To plan a budget, they called a McDonald’s administrator and asked what the fast-food chain’s percentages were for food, labor costs and overhead. They figured if they followed that, they had it made. It was successful and they considered opening a store in Lenox Square.
Michael’s legal career was expanding and a move to Savannah beckoned. They discovered a “White Elephant” house on 37th Street in Savannah, made the second floor their home, and began working on the first floor as a restaurant. On May 14, 1981, Elizabeth’s on 37th opened, and within a year Atlanta Magazine dubbed it the finest restaurant anywhere in coastal Georgia. It has won almost every award possible and Elizabeth was awarded Best Chef of the Southeast.
The Great Chefs team showed up in March of 1996 to film her for Discovery Channel’s Great Chefs of the South, about the time she and her daughter were writing what became one of the best-selling cookbooks, Savannah Seasons.
In the late 90’s, Elizabeth and Michael sold the restaurant, retired, and moved to Portland, Oregon. The restaurant still operates today with many of her dishes. Elizabeth still returns to Savannah to visit the restaurant and cook for the Savannah Food & Wine Festival