Ella

 

Jeri Jacquin

 

Coming to Netflix on May 1st from filmmaker Leslie Iwerks and Iwerks & Co. with theatrical release in May comes the intriguing story of ELLA BRENNAN: Commanding the Table.

Ella Brennan has made more than a name for herself as a legendary restaurateur but is a pioneer of what is now considered a food movement. After high school in New Orleans, her brother Owen wanted to open a business that would take care of her parents. In 1933, Owen hires piano player Fats Pichon plays in their club and it is a success!

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At the age of 20, Ella along with sister Adelaide take on opening a restaurant. Trying to find their niche among famous places on Bourbon Street, Ella teaches herself the business. Creating Breakfast at Brennan’s comes from her European learning trip and brother Owen wants an original dessert on their menu as well. The creation of Bananas Foster became a hit then and is still a hit today!

Brennan’s becomes a rising restaurant and Ella a rising star that is noticed by editors and food critics. the Brennan’s opened a restaurant on Bourbon Street. Food Editor Helen McCully would take Ella to New York where she meets Julia Childs, Jacques Peppin and James Beard (yes, that James Beard).

The passing of Owen and the lease on Bourbon Street property is up but Brennan’s begins again at a new location. The patrons followed eagerly with a party that Ella says, “lasted a month easily”. Never an empty table, Brennan’s continues to be successful on Royal Street in New Orleans.

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The restaurant keeps her busy but Ella meets Paul, they marry and start a family with son Alex and then daughter Ti. Keeping life surrounded by family, members recall having get together’s that always included delicious food. Their marriage unfortunately leads to divorce because of Paul’s problem with drinking.

After a shocking family takeover, Ella walks away from Brennan’s Restaurant and buys a place called Commander’s Palace Restaurant and once again starts from scratch. Beginning with an idea from brother Dick, she creates a Garden District Jazz Brunch. It was instantly a smashing success!

Wanting her patrons to have an experience, Ella creates just that with crowds taking over on Saturdays and Sundays. Surrounded by celebrities of all types there were write ups constantly. Moving in with sister Adelaide, they both continued fancy and dressy party’s at their home.

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Paul Prudhomme became an Executive Chef at Commander’s Palace creating menu’s with Ella that include Cajun Crusine and flavors New Orleans hadn’t brought before. A line of amazing chefs came through Ella’s kitchen from Jeremiah Tower, Danny Meyer, Emeril Lagasse, Jamie Shannon just to name a few. Each chef that came through continued to pave the way for amazing cuisine and continued success for Commander’s Palace.

When Hurricane Katrina came through New Orleans, Ella once again is faced with picking up the pieces by gutting Commander’s Palace. Committed to rebuilding, Ella says, “it breaks your heart to know what people went through in this city. This was no longer survival of yourself but survival of the city we all live in”.

Not only did she rebuild Commander’s Palace, she helped local owner Dooky Chase rebuild her restaurant as well. Reopening thirteen months after Hurricane Katrina, they were back!

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This is a family business as Ella and Dottie move into the home right next to the restaurant to be close to it all. The dedication of this woman named Ella and the Brennan family has continued to bringing the dining experience to generation after generation and I personally have Commander’s Palace on my bucket list!

Director Leslie Iwerks is an Oscar and Emmy nominated filmmaker who has brought Oscar and Tony nominated actress Patricia Clarkson on board to narrate this amazing story. Choosing Ella Brennan, family and their love of the restaurant business as a subject for her documentary is wonderful perfection.

ELLA BRENNAN: Commanding the Table has been the Official Selection for the 2017 Dallas International Film Festival, Audience Award at the New Orleans Film Festival, Official Selection of the: 34 Miami Film Festival, Houston Cinema Arts Festival, Santa Barbara International Film Festival, Tiburon International Film Festival, Annapolis Film Festival, Vermont International Film Festival, San Luis Obispo International Film Festival, Mill Valley Film Festival and the Boulder International Film Festival.

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The story is told from Ella herself along with family, friends, critics and the chefs that were a part of her kitchen which bring such a personal aspect that I was enthralled watching every moment.

A admitted “foodie”, I am fascinated by the creative process of chefs, food and restaurants décor and how they are run. Ella Brennan was a name I had heard before so I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see this documentary. I had no idea that I was in for a delicious treat with not only the food but the history of this amazing woman who created something spectacular.

ELLA BRENNAN: Commanding the Table is a must-see for everyone, whether you are a foodie or not. This documentary is a history of a family who understood and continues to understand their city and patrons. Constantly reinventing itself, Commander’s Palace has a woman at its helm who believes in what she does – and it shows. Brava Ella Brennan!

In the end – she brought grace, elegance and good taste to the nation’s culinary map!

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