While the name for the restaurant being developed at the site of Brennan’s in the French Quarter is still a matter of conjecture — and possibly a legal judgment — Ralph Brennan on Tuesday announced that Slade Rushing, previously co-chef of the CBD restaurant MiLa, has been hired as executive chef.
“They’re putting a lot of resources into this and doing it right,” Rushing said. “I’m super-excited to be part of it.”
Rushing has run MiLa since 2007 together with his wife Allison Vines-Rushing, a James Beard Award-winning chef. She will continue to oversee MiLa, Rushing said.
For his part, Rushing is now focused on charting the culinary direction for Ralph Brennan’s yet-to-be-named restaurant at 417 Royal St., which remains under renovation and is scheduled to open in September.
While the menu will take shape over the summer, Rushing said he and Ralph Brennan discussed the vision for the restaurant extensively over the past few months during interviews for the head chef job.
“The idea is to bring the old and the new together with a slightly innovative edge,” Rushing said. “You need to remember tradition and the history of the restaurant, so you have to keep one foot in that arena, but also keep going forward and be progressive.”
Meanwhile, the future of the Brennan’s Restaurant trade name is expected to come up in court this week when a judge hears from a bankruptcy trustee seeking to sell the assets of the former restaurant.
Brennan’s Restaurant was evicted from its longtime home last year after the building was sold in a foreclosure auction to an investment group that includes Ralph Brennan and local businessman Terry White. Creditors later forced the former Brennan’s restaurant company into bankruptcy to collect on claims. Ralph Brennan’s group has offered to buy the Brennan’s Restaurant name and other assets up for liquidation.
The restaurant building itself dates to 1795 and was used as a residence, a bank and an events hall before first opening as Brennan’s Restaurant in 1956.
Different branches of the Brennan family suffered a fractious split in the early 1970s, with one side remaining associated with Brennan’s Restaurant and the other going on to open many other restaurants around New Orleans and in other cities through the years.
Ralph Brennan grew up in that latter side of the family and worked at Commander’s Palace and Mr. B’s Bistro before forming his own restaurant group, which now operates five properties in New Orleans, one at Disneyland and a local catering operation.
Rushing said he was impressed by the scope of the renovations Ralph Brennan has undertaken at the Royal Street property and is now excited for the chance to help guide the historic property’s future.
“These big restaurants are an important part of New Orleans,” he said. “There’s a lot of tradition, but there’s room to do new things too.”
Rushing, 40, is a native of Tylertown, Miss. He began his career working in New Orleans restaurants, as did Allison Rushing-Vines. In fact, she completed an internship at the Brennan’s Restaurant kitchen in the late 1990s.
The two later worked in New York, where Allison won the James Beard Rising Chef of the Year award in 2004. They returned to Louisiana to open their first restaurant, Longbranch in Abita Springs, just weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit. Though Longbranch closed in 2007, the couple opened MiLa later that same year. In 2012, the two published a cookbook, “Southern Comfort: A New Take on the Recipes We Grew Up With.”
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.