ella brennan

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD -- Ella Brennan, photographed in 2015 at her home in New Orleans.

Hey Blake,

I enjoyed your column (Jan. 21) on the Randazzo family of king cake bakers. Along those lines, can you give us a Brennan family tree?

Dear reader,

The story of the first family of New Orleans cuisine begins with Owen Edward Brennan, born in 1910, the eldest of Owen Patrick and Ella Mary “Nellie” Brennan’s six children. His five siblings were: Adelaide, John, Ella, Richard (known as Dick) and Dorothy (known as Dottie).

According to a family history in the cookbook "Breakfast at Brennan's and Dinner, Too," Owen purchased the Old Absinthe House bar on Bourbon Street in 1943. In 1946, he leased the Vieux Carré Restaurant across the street and named it Owen Brennan’s French and Creole Restaurant, later Owen Brennan’s Vieux Carre. Adelaide, Ella and John joined him in running the restaurant. In 1955 it moved to 417 Royal Street, though Owen Brennan did not live to see it open there. When he died, Ella was working as Brennan’s manager. In the 1960s, Ella expanded the business, purchasing the Friendship House in Biloxi and opening Brennan’s in Houston and Dallas. In 1969, the family purchased Commander’s Palace.

In 1974, an infamous family dispute led to Owen’s widow Maude and their three sons, Owen Jr. (known as Pip), James (known as Jimmy) and Theodore (known as Ted), taking sole control of Brennan’s on Royal Street. Ella and her brothers, sisters and children were forced out but assumed control of the other restaurants.

John Brennan’s children are Ralph, Claire (known as Lally), Cindy and Tommy. Lally is a co-proprietor of Commander’s Palace, while Cindy is proprietor of Mr. B’s Bistro, opened in 1979. Ralph’s restaurant empire includes six restaurants, including Brennan’s on Royal Street. He and business partner Terry White purchased it out of bankruptcy and reopened it in 2014.

Ella’s son Alex Brennan-Martin runs Brennan’s of Houston and her daughter, Ti Adelaide Martin, is co-proprietor of Commander’s Palace. Their cousin Brad Brennan, Dottie Brennan’s son, is also involved in management of Commander’s.

Dick Brennan’s children are Dickie Brennan Jr. and Lauren Brennan Brower. Their restaurants are Palace Cafe, Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse, Bourbon House and Tableau (adjacent to Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre). Dickie and his cousin Ti also are founders of the New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute, which opened recently on Howard Avenue.