David Wilson, Brennan's General Manager.
Imagine preparing meals for 2317 house guests. Brennan's served that many hungry individuals the Saturday before Super Bowl 1975, and it is routine for them to cook for well over a thousand customers each day.
David Wilson, general manager of Brennan's, discusses with The Community Standard some of the inner workings of the restaurant.
The Community Standard: Who owns Brennan's?
Wilson: This restaurant is owned by Pip Brennan and his brothers and his mother.…The building itself is on a long-term lease from Tulane University.
The Community Standard: How big is the staff?
Wilson: The total staff consists of 250. There are 100 waiters.
The Community Standard: Who is the chef?
Wilson: Gerard Tabuis. He is French. He is a young man — 27 years old. He's an excellent person as well as an excellent chef. He works a split shift every day.
The Community Standard: Are the dishes on the menu old family secret recipes?
Wilson: One thing in the menu, Maude's Peanut Butter Ice Cream Pie, is Mrs. Brennan's recipe. But the other items are not old family secret recipes. We have four or five things that were on the original menu, but most of the recipes that we use now have kind of come about over the years.
Basically what happens is that somebody will have an idea, be it Jimmy, Ted or Pip or the chef or me or somebody else in the organization, and we try it. If it's not to everybody's liking, we will change it — try it a different way, try a different sauce. What we start out with might change completely before it gets to the menu.
We keep a log of the different things we try. Going through the cookbooks we pick up and idea here and there, or what you see in a different restaurant, or just something you have in your head. We like to experiment.
The Community Standard: What are the most popular breakfast items?
Wilson: Eggs Hussarde, Eggs Benedict, and Eggs Sardou, in that order. and Bananas Foster, and, of course, the Eye Openers.
The Community Standard: What sells at lunch?
Wilson: Shrimp Victoria and Shrimp Creole Agnew.
The Community Standard: Don't you have adverse reactions to Shrimp Creole Agnew, considering Agnew's downfall?
Wilson: No, it is very popular … Agnew always had a double portion of Shrimp Creole Agnew when he came to the restaurant, and everybody feels that it is still probably one of his favorite dishes. We don't see any need to change the name.
The Community Standard: What are the dinner favorites?
Wilson: Veal Kottwitz, Lobster Toulouse, Stuffed Flounder Nouvelle Orleans, and Pompano en Papillote.
The Community Standard: Does Brennan's have any exciting projects planned for the near future?
Wilson: Within the last year we have been in a remodeling mood more than expansion. We've put in new carpets and new wallpaper throughout most of the house. We're in the process now of just putting all the money back into the walls of the restaurant to bring out the beauty that is already there.
Crowds gather in front of Brennan's at 8:30 a.m. …
… and wait on Brennan's patio at 11:00 a.m. …
… to be presented a bottle of wine by a Brennan's waiter (in this photo, Howard Jeansonne) …
… and watch him prepare Bananas Foster.
Treat yourself to a relaxed breakfast at Brennan's, and experience sensual delights such as a meal consisting of Oyster Soup, lots of hot French bread, Eggs Sardou, white wine, and Bananas Foster.
Taste the well-seasoned potage. Capture those plump oysters floating in the soup. Butter the bread and eat it. Feel the texture and wholesomeness. Have some Eggs Sardou, savoring the richness of poached eggs on artichoke bottoms with creamed spinach and hollandaise Sauce. Sip the wine. Order some Bananas Foster and watch your waiter sauté bananas in butter, brown sugar and spices, and flame them with run and banana liqueur. Then sense the surprise of spicy fruit over cold vanilla ice cream. What could be more delicious and luxurious?
Only another morning feast. Try eggs à la Nouvelle Orleans, a scrumptious creation of poached eggs served on lump crabmeat, topped with a brandy cream sauce. Also, experience Crepes Fitzgerald, crepes filled with cream cheese and sour cream, served with a topping of crushed strawberries flamed in liqueur.
You owe it to yourself to enjoy a brunch at 417 Royal Street.
Waiter Gee Joe Wong will guide you in choosing from Brennan's evening menu.
Dinner at Brennan's is not as much in vogue as is breakfast, but do not harbor the misconception that the restaurant only serves nice morning meals. The dinners are quite enjoyable too. The dinner menu seems to be in a state of transition, but certain items are definitely popular and those dishes will probably be kept on the menu.
The Oyster Soup is excellent, and the Gumbo is sometimes one of the best in town. Both the Brennan's Salad and the Jackson Salad are tasty and different. The Brennan's Salad is made with Romaine lettuce, French dressing, grated Parmesan cheese and croutons. The Jackson Salad consists of mixed greens with French dressing, chopped hard-cooked eggs, crumbled bacon, blue cheese, and chives. However, the best choice is the Tossed Green Salad with Jackson Dressing. The Jackson Dressing is a French dressing with bits of bacon, blue cheese, chives and hard-cooked eggs in it.
Entrees are imaginative. Redfish Steak with Lump Crabmeat Jaime is an old favorite. It is a redfish steak topped with lump crabmeat in a red wine and mushroom sauce. Shrimp Victoria is a delicately seasoned entree comprised of boiled shrimp in a light sour cream sauce with white wine, mushrooms and a hint of basil. It is accompanied by parsley rice. Trout Nancy is a filet of trout sauteed in a lemon butter sauce, sprinkled with capers and lump crabmeat.
The French bread with the meal is always satisfying. The wines are more expensive than at most New Orleans restaurants and the selection is limited, but a meal of this kind deserves wine, so order the Almaden Chadlis or a Muscadet. Both of these wines are dry, with no whisper of sweetness, and they go well with the French/Creole cuisine.
For dessert, Maude's Peanut Butter Ice Cream Pie is mandatory. It might sound heavy, but this is a light, delicate, refreshing dessert. The peanut butter flavor is subtle. The famous Bananas Foster and Crepes Fitzgerald are also available. Watching your waiter prepare these desserts at the table is almost as much fun as eating them.
Brennan's is open every day. Dinner is served starting at 6 p.m. The tab will probably be $15.00 to $17.50 per person, including wine and tip.
Eldridge Emboulas, New Orleans' most popular maitre d'.
Brennan's front door is a little quieter now, later in the morning (June 1994).
Loaves of French bread await their turn on Brennan's breakfast tables (December 1975).
A waiter prepares Crepes Fitzgerald and Bananas Foster (December 1975).
Brennan's brightens the 400 block of Royal Street in this photograph by Aubrey C. Jenkins, ca. 1962.
Available directly from the publisher, and at many museum bookstores.
An Affair of the Heart: America's Romance with Louisiana Food
A Dover book available from Mitchells Publications.
The Picayune's Creole Cook Book
Copyright © 1975–2006 Patricia B. Mitchell.