Growing up in the famed New Orleans restaurant family, Dickie Brennan has always known the restaurant industry not just as a part of life, but as a way of life. He entered the restaurant business in 1974, gaining his first culinary experience at his family’s restaurant, Commander’s Palace, under the tutelage of world-renowned Chef Paul Prudhomme.
Dickie was a part of the opening team of the family’s next venture, Mr. B’s Bistro, which has been in operation for nearly 30 years. While receiving extensive training at Commander’s Palace and Mr. B’s Bistro, he attended Louisiana State University and Loyola University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in finance. During his college years, Dickie spent a semester studying in Rome, Italy, and served an apprenticeship at Delmonico’s restaurant in Mexico City, Mexico.
Upon graduation, at a time when American food was on the cutting edge of the culinary world, Dickie left for New York City to apprentice with famed Chef Larry Forgione of An American Place restaurant. He then moved to France to study the French language at the Institute de Française and to cook in some of Paris’ most famous restaurants: La Tour d’ Argent, Taillevent, Chilberta, Au Quai d’ Orsay, La Maree, and Gerard Besson.
Dickie returned to the United States in 1985 to be General Manager of the family’s restaurant, Brennan’s of Houston, in downtown Houston, Texas. Four years later, he moved home to New Orleans to convert the historic, turn-of-the-century Werlein building into a grand café, much like the ones he had known in Paris. On March 11, 1991, Palace Café was born, with Dickie functioning as Managing Partner for the family.
After the first year of Palace Café’s operation, Dickie’s role expanded to include the duties of Executive Chef. To date, Dickie Brennan is the only family member to have held this position. During his tenure at Palace Café, the following awards and accolades were received:
1991 Best New Restaurant Esquire magazine, 1991 Best New Restaurant USA Today, 1992 Restaurateur of the Year New Orleans magazine, 1992 Featured Chef Great Chefs TV series “The New Garde”, 1993 Featured Chef Napa Valley Wine Auction Vintner’s Dinner, 1993 Featured Chef James Beard House “Living Legends” dinner, 1993 Featured Chef Hotel De Crillion, Paris, France.
In 1995, after a 16-year absence, Dickie returned to Commander’s Palace as Managing Partner and assumed day-to-day responsibilities of managing the restaurant from his father and his father’s siblings. During Dickie’s tenure at Commander’s Palace, these honors were received:
1994 Featured Chef Randolph Cancer Benefit Gala at the Greenbrier, 1995 Restaurateur of the Year New Orleans Restaurant Association, 1995 Favorite Restaurant in America Reader’s poll, Food & Wine magazine, 1996 Outstanding Restaurant in America James Beard Foundation.
Dickie returned to Palace Café as Managing Partner in November 1997. Committed to excellence in redefined fine dining, inspired by his vision of creating restaurants focused on quality, value, continuous improvement, creativity and hospitality, and in constant pursuit of growth opportunities, he established Dickie Brennan & Company, which provides support services for his restaurants.
In November of 1998, Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse opened its doors in the French Quarter and has received local and national acclaim. In 2002, Dickie released his first cookbook, Palace Café: The Flavor of New Orleans. Just a few months later, Dickie and his partners Steve Pettus and Lauren Brennan Brower opened their newest restaurant, Bourbon House Seafood & Oyster Bar. Bourbon House subsequently was named one of Esquire magazine’s Best New Restaurants in America by national food writer John Mariani. The restaurant has appeared on the pages on The New York Times, Wine Spectator, Us Weekly, and Southern Accents, among others.
Honors received include: 1999 One of Fifty New Tastemakers Nation’s Restaurant News, 2000 Restaurateur of the Year New Orleans Magazine, 2000-07 Top 10 Steakhouses in America (Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse) Tom Horan, 2001 Top 12 Steakhouses in America (Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse) Playboy Magazine, 2002 Featured Cookbook Author (Palace Café: The Flavor of New Orleans) James Beard, 2002 Southeast Restaurant of the Year (Palace Café) Maple Leaf Farms, 2003 Best New Restaurant (Bourbon House) Esquire Magazine, 2006-07 Best Places to Work City Business, 2006 Best Steakhouses in America Maxim Magazine, 2007 Restaurants spotlighted at two James Beard Dinners.
In addition to running successful restaurants, Dickie remains active in the hospitality industry, as well as in his community. He is a certified “Foodservice Management Professional,” and has served as President of the New Orleans Restaurant Association, President of the Louisiana Restaurant Association (2001), Chairman of the Board of the Downtown Development District, and is currently Chairman of the New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corporation. Dickie is also a member of the Board of Governors of Tulane University Medical Hospital. Additionally, he is a new Boardmember for Kingsley House, and has been recognized by Gambit Weekly, City Business and the Young Leadership Council for being one of New Orleans’ brightest business leaders “making a difference in New Orleans and beyond.” He has also appeared on NBC’s Today Show to help local farmers in our area recover from Katrina.
Committed to rebuilding New Orleans and to keeping his team together, Dickie, Steve Pettus and Lauren Brennan Brower, re-opened Bourbon House just 5 weeks after Hurricane Katrina. The cuisine of the city was reflected on the menu. Employees were paid and benefits continued while the restaurants were closed. Palace Café re-opened December 27, 2005, and Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse (which sustained the most damage) re-opened April 28, 2006.
Dickie remains active in the hospitality industry and community. In addition to being an ambassador for New Orleans and its unique culture, he recently joined the James Beard Foundation Board of Trustees and has joined the Southern Food and Beverage Museum board.
Dickie now plans to open a restaurant in Baton Rouge in fall of 2008 featuring dishes from his three critically acclaimed French Quarter restaurants. The yet to be named restaurant is part of the new Marriott Renaissance four star property.
A family man above all else, Dickie admirably manages the demands of a successful career and his numerous other obligations while raising two beautiful children, Sara and Richard, with his wife Leslie.