The documentary Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table tells the story of the New Orleans powerhouse restaurateur – and it’s one compelling story.
Ella Brennan is a woman who, before she was thirty, started running restaurants in the pre-feminist 1950s. Ella Brennan started as the little sister and became the matriarch of the famous New Orleans restaurant family. She launched Brennan’s and Commander’s Palace, the latter still the greatest of New Orleans Creole restaurants. On her journey, she had to overcome Mad Men-era sexism, a slew of business cycles and hurricanes – and even family betrayal.
We see a woman with old-fashioned obsession with detail and very high standards. We also see culinary and marketing creativity that can only be described as genius. Ella Brennan is responsible for Bananas Foster, the Jazz Brunch and a host of food trends. Along the way, she mentored the celebrity chefs Paul Prudhomme, Emeril Lagasse and Jamie Shannon. Here’s a New York Times profile of Ella Brennan that mentions this film.
I saw Ella Brennan last fall at the Mill Valley Film Festival. Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table can be streamed from Netflix Instant.