Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table is the story of Ella Brennan’s life and rise to the ranks of one of the most highly acclaimed restaurateurs of all time. She was born into “New Orleans royalty” as a member of the famous Brennan family, and was raised eating good food and learning the ropes of the restaurant biz. At a very young age, Ella took over Brennan’s Restaurant, turning it into the fine-dining success it remains today, and eventually opened Commander’s Palace which quickly became a beloved, aqua-blue icon in the restaurant world serving unmatched cuisine. Referred to as everything from Hurricane Ella to the Pizzazz Ambassador, she is credited as the creator of jazz brunch and “Haute Creole Cuisine,” as well as playing a substantial role in bringing several then-unheard of chefs—such as Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse—to national celebrity status. Ella doesn’t cook. She survives on take-out from Commander’s and they say she doesn’t even own a pan, but she knows what good food is and makes sure that her restaurant serves it.
The film is touching and funny, inspiring and educational, and will definitely make you hungry. The beautiful imagery—in particular, the food shots—do their subjects justice, portraying the dishes Ella helped conceive as mouthwatering, colorful, and flawlessly presented. While filmgoers outside of New Orleans may appreciate some of the jokes and references slightly less than the locals do, this is still a must-see for everyone who likes a powerful success story or who simply likes to eat.
Not just a biography of Ella Brennan, the film is equally the story of the restaurant industry, a story of survival, of food and culture, and of New Orleans as a whole. As Ti Martin, Ella’s daughter, said, “This is really about all of New Orleans. It just happens to be our family’s story.”