Early life and education
Brennan was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on November 27, 1925. Her father was a shipyard superintendent and her mother, Nellie (Valentine) Brennan, was a homemaker and inventive home cook. Ella grew up in New Orleans and graduated high school in 1943.
Her brother Owen owned the Old Absinthe House on Bourbon Street and Ella Brennan worked there as a teenager. He also opened the Vieux Carré Restaurant on Bourbon Street. Plans to move the restaurant to Royal Street were interrupted when Owen suddenly died and banks pulled out of the venture. Acquiring her own backing, Ella did open the new restaurant in 1956, the first Brennan's Restaurant. This tactic was very successful and Ella worked behind the scenes, as well as out front to ensure the quality of the dishes. A family dispute dislodged her from the restaurant completely, and she countered by taking over a restaurant of her own with her siblings Adelaide Brennan, Dottie Brennan, John Brennan and Dick Brennan. Commander's Palace became one of the culinary destinations of the South, if not the entire nation. At Commander's Palace she worked with Paul Prudhomme, beginning in 1975, and Emeril Lagasse from 1983.
Miss Ella (as she became to be known) went on to develop the careers of many chefs including James Beard Foundation Award winners Jamie Shannon and Tory McPhail, who is still the chef of Commander's Palace today.
Death and legacy
She died on May 31, 2018, at the age of 92. Her daughter Ti Adelaide Martin is co-proprietor of Commander's Palace and SoBou restaurants and her son Alex Brennan-Martin is proprietor of Brennan's of Houston.
She was the subject of a 2017 documentary, Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table.
- Brennan, Ella and Ti Martin, Miss Ella of Commander's Palace, 2016.
- Simmons, Scott R. (2007). "Brennan, Ella". In Edge, John T. (volume ed.); Wilson, Charles Reagan (series ed.) (eds.). The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. 7: Foodways. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. pp. 129–130. ISBN 978-0-8078-3146-5. JSTOR 10.5149/9781469616520_edge.46. Text via the Southern Foodways Alliance.
- Food & Wine
- Anderson, Brett (May 5, 2015). "James Beard Award winning restaurants in New Orleans". The Times-Picayune. Archived from the original on 2015-07-15.
- Brennan, Ella; Martin, Ti Adelaide (2016). Miss Ella of Commander's Palace: "I don't want a restaurant where a jazz band can't come marching through". Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 978-1-4236-4255-8.
- Mullener, Elizabeth (October 7, 2007). "The Queen of Cuisine: Ella Brennan regarded as one of most revolutionary restaurateurs in world". The Times-Picayune. Archived from the original on 2015-10-25.
- Sandomir, Richard (June 1, 2018). "Ella Brennan, Grande Dame Restaurateur of New Orleans, Dies at 92". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2019-06-10.