Ella Brennan Biography

Ella BrennanElla Brennan will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters from the Loyola University New Orleans College of Arts and Sciences. Brennan is the matriarch of one the most prominent restaurant families in the United States. The Commander’s Family of Restaurants currently operates four restaurants, including Commander’s Palace, Brennan’s of Houston, Café Adelaide & the Swizzle Stick Bar, and SoBou. Brennan has worked in New Orleans’ restaurant industry since 1940 and has revolutionized an industry, setting unmatched standards for service and developing a fresh interpretation of the nation’s most distinctive and celebrated regional cuisines, Creole. She has mentored some of the biggest names in the food world: chefs Paul Prudhomme; Emeril Lagasse; Jamie Shannon; and current Commander’s Palace chef, Tory McPhail. She is the author The Commander’s Palace New Orleans Cookbook and a memoir, Miss Ella of Commander’s Palace.

Dubbed the Queen of Creole Cuisine by People magazine, she has received a number of awards and achievements from the James Beard Foundation, including Outstanding Service Restaurant Winner, 1993; Chef/Owner Restaurant Winner, 1993; Outstanding Restaurant Winner, 1996; and Lifetime Achievement Award, 2009. Brennan has also received numerous awards for her distinguished contributions to food and culinary culture: the Silver Spoon Award; the University of New Orleans’ School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Administration’s Hospitality Leadership Award; and the Southern Foodways Alliance’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Two major food industry awards have been established in her name. The Ella Brennan Savoir Faire Award was created by the New Orleans chapter of the American Culinary Federation in 1998 and is awarded annually to honor leadership in the hospitality industry; Brennan was the first recipient. The Ella Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Orleans Wine and Food Experience annually recognizes a “lifetime commitment to the hospitality industry.”

Brennan’s Loyola connections include her daughter, Ti Martin, who received an honorary doctor of business degree from Loyola in 2005, and her nephew, Dickie Brennan Jr., a 1983 graduate of Loyola’s School of Business.