For Ti Adelaide Martin, co-proprietor of the world-renowned Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, it’s all about exceptional hospitality and, of course, the food.
“That is really my greatest passion—hospitality,” says Ti, who, with cousin Lally Brennan, sits at the helm of the iconic bright-aqua establishment in the heart of the charming Garden District. Commander’s is the award-winning (including six James Beard Foundation honors) flagship for the Brennan family dynasty of restaurants that includes SoBou, where the pair also preside.
American cuisine underwent a transformation in the early 1980s with a shift from European emphasis to regional cuisines like the haute creole that Ti’s mother, Ella Brennan, made famous along with the late chef Paul Prudhomme. Ella and her siblings Dottie, John, Adelaide, and Dick, purchased Commander’s in 1974, hiring and mentoring a series of chefs who went on to achieve great success, including Emeril Lagasse, the late Jamie Shannon, and since 2002, Tory McPhail.
The Brennan family honors regional hospitality along with regional foodways. Sundays at Commander’s feature a traditional jazz brunch with helium balloons and a lively band that plays diners’ requests. At Mardi Gras, tables are bedecked with shiny gold paper crowns and plastic beads (typically tossed from parade floats) for guests to wear. The idea is to help create great memories for customers.
“We’ve had a food revolution in America, but I don’t think the state of hospitality is that great,” says Ti, who opines that New Orleans, well-known for its wonderful parties, is poised to set the example. “I do believe if you asked, ‘What is the greatest city in America when it comes to hospitality?’ New Orleans would probably win. I think, as a city, we can take that and improve what we do across the board, and also teach it to the rest of the world.”