Details of service and presentation are clearly on display in a routine meeting between Chef Tory, staff, and dozens of servers in black-tie uniform preparing for a Saturday evening at Commander’s. But Commander’s takes decorum a step further. While the restaurant no longer requires, but prefers, that men wear jackets, it’s one of the few in this tropical-weather tourist mecca that doesn’t allow shorts, flip-flops, or T-shirts. Men are required to have a collared shirt and no hats. “It is a very, very, very difficult thing to uphold in the world we live in,” says Ti, who has noticed a change in civilities over the years. There are places where casual is appropriate, “but there ought to be a couple of restaurants in every town where, [if] you’re celebrating tonight, the guy next to you is not in a T-shirt and flip-flops.”
Active in a wide range of community initiatives over the years— from Girls First to serving on the board of the business school at her alma mater, Southern Methodist University—Ti currently devotes her attention to the New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute (NOCHI). The organization was created in 2013 to open a world-class culinary and hospitality school that will teach both food and service skills. At the same time, NOCHI hopes to serve the culinary enthusiast with classes on everything from cocktails to baking.
Ti’s savviness has been evident since she returned to New Orleans to join the family enterprise, a move that wasn’t necessarily on her early life agenda and initially discouraged by Ella, who urged her to go into business. In retrospect, she understands that her mom “wanted it to be an active choice. You’ve got to want to do this. I think that was smart on her part.”
The collection of gracious deeds contributes to the overall experience that Commander’s seeks to provide. “It’s all about hospitality,” says Ti. Indeed, it rings true as she bids a warm farewell to guests: “Don’t be a stranger.”