Ian McNulty: For local company, real estate deals start with recipes _lowres

Advocate staff photo by Ian McNulty - Ella Brennan, of Commander's Palace fame, inspired a real estate firm's marketing campaign.

We know that food is a good icebreaker, and that a lot of business gets done over restaurant tables in this town. Still, I was surprised to learn how the city’s food culture has become the calling card for a local company not particularly affiliated with roux or remoulade.

Corporate Realty, the New Orleans-based commercial real estate firm, does some work with restaurants, though that isn’t its core business. But when the company makes its pitch to clients, it comes from a unique intersection of business and food.

Its monthly mailer (sent mostly to brokers and bankers, commercial tenants and developers) is a basic one-pager of transactions and listings attached to what looks like the brochure for a restaurant, not of a real estate firm, with a chef profile and a recipe to try at home.

“I don’t know if you could do this in a lot of other cities, but the persona of New Orleans is so intrinsically tied to food,” said company president Mike Siegel. “Whenever we meet with clients we always start talking about real estate and end up talking about food and restaurants anyway.”

Right now, the company is in the midst of an homage to Ella Brennan, matriarch of the Commander’s Palace branch of the Brennan restaurant family. It’s a year-long campaign that starts with outtakes from interviews with the legendary restaurateur and continues with features on chefs who have come through the Commander’s Palace kitchen, along with a recipe each time.

It turns out Corporate Realty has been at this for years. On the company’s web site (corp-realty.com), between the typical sections where firms display listings or enumerate corporate values, there’s a button for “Recipes.” It connects to an archive of issues from newsletter campaigns past, all of them revolving around restaurants and recipes.

Previous themes have ranged from the restaurants of the French Quarter to food trucks. One past campaign led with recipes from New Orleans musicians, which reveals that Ellis Marsalis’ gumbo recipe starts by making chicken gizzard stock and that pianist Jon Cleary’s instructions for red beans and rice calls for a specific soundtrack and a six-pack of Guinness.

“I think it’s pretty good marketing, but to some extent, I don’t even care about that,” said Siegel. “When you get down to it, we’re all foodies.”

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.