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Creole cuisine creator Ella Brennan dead at 92

The American Culinary Federation’s New Orleans chapter named an annual award for her

Ella+Brennan%2C+whose+home+is+located+adjacent+to+Commander%27s+Palace+Restaurant+in+New+Orleans.+Brennan%2C+who+couldn%27t+cook+but+played+a+major+role+in+putting+New+Orleans+on+the+world%27s+culinary+map%2C+died+Thursday%2C+May+31.+She+was+92.
Ella Brennan, whose home is located adjacent to Commander's Palace Restaurant in New Orleans. Brennan, who couldn't cook but played a major role in putting New Orleans on the world's culinary map, died Thursday, May 31. She was 92.

Ella Brennan, whose home is located adjacent to Commander's Palace Restaurant in New Orleans. Brennan, who couldn't cook but played a major role in putting New Orleans on the world's culinary map, died Thursday, May 31. She was 92.

GERALD HERBERT / Associated Press

GERALD HERBERT / Associated Press

Ella Brennan, whose home is located adjacent to Commander's Palace Restaurant in New Orleans. Brennan, who couldn't cook but played a major role in putting New Orleans on the world's culinary map, died Thursday, May 31. She was 92.

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NEW ORLEANS — Ella Brennan, who couldn’t cook but played a major role in putting New Orleans on the world’s culinary map, died Thursday. She was 92.

Brennan was credited with creating nouvelle Creole cuisine, was the matriarch of a family that owns nearly two-dozen restaurants, and spent year at Commander’s Palace cultivating many of the city’s top chefs including Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse. She won the James Beard Foundation’s lifetime achievement award in 2009. “I had a barrel of fun and if anybody calls that work they’re crazy,” Brennan said in October 2015.

“She can’t really boil water,” Lagasse said that year. But, he said, “She’s one of the greatest restaurateurs I’ve ever met. She has an incredible palate and an even more incredible mind.”

Brennan started in the business as a high school kid working in her oldest brother Owen’s restaurant. Mostly, she taught herself, reading and asking questions of just about anyone else who crossed her path.

She can’t really boil water. [But] she’s one of the greatest restaurateurs I’ve ever met. She has an incredible palate and an even more incredible mind.”

— Emeril Lagasse

Her mentoring took many forms: weekly “foodie meetings,” trips to New York and abroad to learn from restaurants; and notes. Lagasse recalled one handed to him during his early years at Commander’s Palace: “When you come to work tomorrow, do me a favor and leave your ego at home.” They’d often sit at her desk together on Saturdays to thumb through menus and cookbooks, discussing how to “creolize” dishes for Commander’s customers.

The American Culinary Federation’s New Orleans chapter named an annual award for her. Its website states, “Her talent for teaching and coaching young people with a passion for the restaurant business has led to a legion of chefs who named her as their mentor.”

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Creole cuisine creator Ella Brennan dead at 92