This year, the New Orleans culinary icon Commander’s Palace celebrates 130 years of restaurant history. To mark the occasion, co-proprietors Ti Adelaide Martin and Lally Brennan—alongside Executive Chef Meg Bickford and the entire Commander’s Palace family—are rolling out a yearlong calendar of anniversary programming. Fans are encouraged to follow the restaurant on social media for the latest updates on celebratory happenings to come, with an early lineup available in the release below.
“What our guests love about Commander’s Palace is our approach to service; we are striving to be both warm and meticulous,” says Co-Proprietor Lally Brennan. “I think it’s this blend of approachability and playfulness with uncompromising hospitality that keeps generation after generation joining us. It’s incredible to not only see our longtime regulars, but to also see new faces begin to join us weekly; it’s why we do what we do.”
The legendary New Orleans dining destination, Commander’s Palace, first debuted in 1893 as a small Garden District saloon and restaurant. In 1969, pioneering female restaurateur Ella Brennan and four of her siblings took its helm, changing the landscape not only for women in hospitality, but also for what Creole cuisine and hospitality could be.
An impressive “who’s who” of culinary talent cut their teeth at Commander’s—from the late great chefs Paul Prudhomme and Jamie Shannon to famed chef/TV personality Emeril Lagasse and the multi-award-winning Chef Tory McPhail. Today, Executive Chef Meg Bickford—the restaurant’s first female executive chef and a longtime veteran of the Commander’s Palace kitchen (she started in 2008 as a hot appetizer cook)—continues the restaurant’s penchant for honoring and providing access to a rich, storied history, while continually exploring new frontiers in cuisine and cultural evolution.
Bickford brings both a respect for the past and a passion for pushing forward in what she describes as her “New Haute Creole” culinary approach. The 2016 documentary “Commanding the Table” details how Commander’s Palace forged new culinary pathways with Chef Prudhomme’s integration of Creole and Cajun flavors, a less common approach at the time and now a staple of dishes throughout the restaurant’s menu and beyond. Bickford—intimately familiar with Cajun cuisine as a Larose, La. native herself—brings a similar outlook, examining the origins of Creole and Cajun cuisine, as well as how it intersects with the melting pot of New Orleans and greater Louisiana today.
“I want us to honor our roots, but that doesn’t mean we need to be constrained by them,” says Bickford. “It’s in the Commander’s Palace spirit to challenge ourselves to always grow, learn, and evolve. New Orleans is not one singular thing. It’s Haute Creole. It’s deeply cajun, of course. And it’s also home to a vibrant community of Honduran-Americans, Vietnamese-Americans, and more. As we move into our 130th year, we are celebrating the New Orleans of today just as much as our roots. Our menu is a reflection of that and why we call it, ‘New Haute Creole.’ It’s the pioneering Commander’s Palace haute creole cuisine, for today.”
As examples of this approach, Bickford cites dishes like the Jumbo Lump Blue Crab Ramos Gin Fizz, which includes Louisiana crab meat piled high in a glass jigger and topped with a shaken, frothy New Orleans-style Ramos Gin Fizz (and a dollop of Louisiana caviar) and the Miso Gulf Fish featuring cast iron-seared Gulf fish and chargrilled baby bok choy over Louisiana soybean-preserved green garlic farro, fried garlic chili oil, and crushed crab lemongrass broth.
“At Commander’s Palace, we don’t stand still,” says Martin, speaking to Bickford’s New Haute Creole direction. “We’ve always pushed the boundaries of creole cooking. And right now feels like an especially exciting time in the New Orleans culinary community. Meg, alongside many of our friends in the industry, are challenging themselves to deliver new interpretations of what our food can be.”
“Wines of a Certain Age” program – led by Commander’s Palace “Wine Guy” Dan Davis, this playfully titled yet seriously special collection of vintage wines by the glass offers guests incredible access to exceptional and rare wines from award-winning winemakers around the globe, without the commitment (or cost) of a full bottle. “Quite possibly the largest and most ambitious wines by the glass program in the country, our selection is accessible to those just beginning to explore wine, and equally exciting for those already well versed,” says Davis. In honor of the 130th anniversary, Davis is expanding this selection with highlights including the 2017 Elvio Tintero, Langhe Favorita DOC, Piedmont, Italy; the 2015 Tyrrell’s, Old Vine Sémillon, Hunter Valley, Australia; and the 2011 Château Fontanès, la Petite Sérine Syrah, Pic Saint-Loup, Languedoc-Roussillon, France.
Chef Meg & Co Dinner Series – Executive Chef Meg Bickford continues her popular “Chef Meg & Co Dinner Series” with a third event at Commander’s Palace with acclaimed Chef Sue Zemanick on July 11. Featuring notable guest chefs from around the city, these events explore the best of New Orleans cuisine and highlight Bickford’s “New Haute Creole” approach.
Fringe + Co Fashion Collaboration – in 2022, Commander’s Palace partnered with fellow New Orleans-based and women-led business Fringe + Co to debut a limited-edition, Commander’s Palace-inspired blue and white jacket. In honor of the 130th anniversary, the team is bringing the jacket back for one final run, available for pre-sale now through February 28, with jacket delivery by May 2023 ($175 per jacket). Designed by Chief Sequin Officer Kelsey Campion, the one-of-a-kind piece embraces the Big Easy brand’s ethos of bringing “pizazz to everyday life” with four tiers of iridescent tinsel. Any “Pizazz Ambassadors” who dine at Commander’s Palace in 2023 while wearing their jacket will have a complimentary treat brought to their table.
Commander’s Palace Co-Proprietor Ti Adelaide Martin will lead a hospitality panel at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week (NOEW). The six-day entrepreneurial fest brings startup founders, world-renowned leaders, aspiring entrepreneurs, investors, and more together to celebrate, learn, and network at the intersection of innovation and culture. With a nod to this milestone anniversary, Martin will be speaking to the power of hospitality in New Orleans and how this approach can be applied across industries for meaningful impact.
Anniversary Cocktail – guests can toast to the milestone year-round with an all-new celebratory libation, the Sparkle Plenty. Prepared tableside, housemade seasonal sorbet is topped with sparkling wine for a bubbly and sweet cheers to 130 years.