Terapak ’71: Lawyer by Day, Food Connoisseur by Night
Looking for a good restaurant in Central Ohio? Rich Terapak ’71 is the man to consult.
The 62-year-old married father of two is a true food connoisseur and can rattle off a list of good eats around Columbus for any occasion. And on the first Friday of each month, listeners tune in for Terapak’s hour-long segment “Soundbites” on WOSU as he shares his take on the many dining experiences that he has throughout the city.
But this is only a side gig. Terapak’s day job is as a partner in Porter Wright Morris & Arthur’s Columbus office and chair of the firm’s Health Care Practice Group.
While law was something he had always intended to pursue, Terapak more so fell into cooking by default. When Terapak was a child his mother never liked to cook and wasn’t great at it, he said. Terapak and his siblings first learned that food could have seasonings and flavors added to them after visiting friends for dinner, he joked.
Around age 10, Terapak picked up a spatula and hasn’t stopped since.
“Cooking is a distraction, it takes your mind away from what you’ve been doing all day,” he explained. “It’s much more tangible and gives instant gratification. I can pour over documents for weeks and weeks but can make a meal within an hour that everyone can enjoy.”
He and his wife, Roberta, have been members of gourmet food group, Spooners, for more than three decades. And while Terapak does most of the cooking at home, he adds that his wife is a pretty good cook herself, though she may not always get the credit.
And as much as he enjoys cooking, Terapak could never envision himself doing it full-time after witnessing the amount of work a close friend put into being a chef.
“It’s too hard,” he insisted. “It’s a very demanding field. Though they say ‘law is a jealous mistress,’ chefing is much more jealous.”
While being a food critic is largely a hobby, Terapak said he was naturally drawn to law.
“I decided to go into law my junior year (of college),” Terapak said. “It was a turbulent time. There were a lot of campus upheaval; the Vietnamese War was firing up. Law school seemed like a good idea.”
When his father died suddenly during his senior year, Terapak saw no other options but to stay in his native Columbus to help his family. He went on to obtain his J.D. from Ohio State in 1971.
From 1974-80, Terapak had the opportunity to “witness laws being made” while serving as the director of the Ohio Ethics Commission, which was created after the Watergate scandal. His reputation for ethics and professionalism earned him a position at Bank One in the legal department.
“When I was recruited people would joke and say ‘hey, you used to be ethical, now you’re a banker’,” Terapak said with a chuckle.
But the experience Terapak gained during his eight years at Bank One was no laughing matter. In fact, Terapak credits his time with the bank for allowing an “easy transition” to his current position at Porter Wright.
“While overseeing all the legal work, I got to see internal work done by in-house lawyers, and I learned a lot about banking law,” Terapak explained. “I also managed work sent to outside counsel. So, seeing litigation and all of that was pretty handy for getting into the private practice.”
As chair of the Health Care Practice Group, Terapak is often leading and directing clients throughout the heavily regulated field of health care.
Despite an overly busy work schedule, Terapak said that he still finds time to keep a healthy work and family balance.
“You have to work on it and constantly remind yourself of the duty to your family and your duty to your partners,” he said. “Family should always take the lead.”
Though his list of hobbies ranges from watercolor painting to working out, cooking takes the lead.
“It’s always nice to use the other side of your brain … and your palate,” he said.
To listen to archived versions of Terapak’s radio show “Soundbites,” visit http://www.wosu.org/soundbites/