NON-FICTION: Miss Ella of Commander’s Palace: I don’t want a restaurant where a jazz band can’t come marching through is a fantastically entertaining book of memoirs from a New Orleans restaurateur-legend and Creole-Cajun cuisine grande dame. This autobiography details the astoundingly influential life of Ella Brennan, from her brother Owen Brennan’s first business venture with Vieux Carré on Bourbon Street to the rise and fall of her family’s work with Brennan’s restaurant on Royal Street and building up to Commander’s Palace’s award-winning success on Washington Avenue. Today, most locals and tourists alike have dined in at least one Brennan family-owned restaurant during their time in New Orleans. Miss Ella of Commander’s Palace recounts a time before New Orleans became famed for its food, and how she has spent her early career contributing to that rise in popularity as she became among the most influential restaurateurs in Southern history. With an insightful forward from Cookie Roberts, along with personal touches from famous New Orleans chefs, entertainers and entrepreneurs, including Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme, Chris Owens and Tim and Nina Zagat, the people Ella Brennan has built relationships with is inspiring on its own.
Ti Martin, co-proprietor of Commander’s Palace, daughter of Ella Brennan and co-author of Miss Ella of Commander’s Palace, shares the most challenging aspects of taking on the project, “Never write a book with an uncooperative subject! I am only half kidding. Mom wanted nothing to do with a book about her. People have always told us we should do it, but she would give me ‘that look’ – like don’t even think about it …” Martin said in an interview. “I finally convinced her that her adored grandchildren, grand nieces and nephews as well as all the young people in our businesses had no clue about all that had gone on … and then the fun began of getting all the stories.”
Miss Ella of Commander’s Palace made me laugh, cry and beckoned my attention in every free moment I had. With its quirky quotes, chapter’s lessons, historic photographs and Ella Brennan’s distinct character and wit present in the writing, I highly recommend this book to all who love this city. Miss Ella of Commander’s Palace opens the curtain and sets the table for all inquisitive restaurant-goers. Keep an eye out for the documentary film, Ella Brennan: Commanding the Table, also to be released this fall.
FUNK: River’s on Fire is the first album release by John “Papa” Gros since 2013 – and it was worth the wait. If River’s on Fire were a cocktail, then Gros is a mixologist using funk, blues, reggae, jazz and rock ’n’ roll as his ingredients – making one deliciously dynamic album. This 11-track disc features musicians such as Brian Stoltz, Mike Dillon and Eric Vogel, and is mixed by Grammy Award-Winning Trina Shoemaker at Dauphin Street Productions. Released on Aug. 26, Gros credits some of the album’s inspiration to his friend and New Orleans’ lost legend, Allen Toussaint.