The highly anticipated Higgins Hotel & Conference Center has announced the appointment of award-winning Chef Virgile Brandel as Executive Chef. The National WWII Museum’s New Orleans property is slated to open early December with four dining outlets and a distinct 1940s theme.
Brandel brings more than 25 years of culinary experience to The Higgins Hotel and will spearhead menu development, culinary innovation and operations of the various dining outlets, which include the Hotel’s signature restaurant Café Normandie, a lobby lounge named Kilroy’s Bar and Lounge, rooftop bar Rosie’s on the Roof and Provisions, a marketplace ideal for grab-and-go options. As Executive Chef, Brandel will also lead catering for the Hotel’s Conference Center, which will serve as a meeting and event space for private rentals, educational programming and various conferences and symposia hosted by the Museum.
“Chef Brandel brings indisputable talent and passion to The Higgins Hotel, which will set a distinguished tone for the property and its diverse array of dining options,” says Daniel Rhodes, General Manager of The Higgins Hotel & Conference Center. “We are pleased to have a chef of his caliber lead the culinary team for this unique hotel, set in a city with such rich culinary history.”
Most recently, Brandel served as the Executive Chef at Atrio Restaurant & Wine Room at the Conrad Miami and Banquet Chef at the Loews Hotels in Miami Beach. He also served as Executive Fine Dining Chef at several Ritz-Carlton properties around the country. A native of France, Brandel began his career in French kitchens, serving as Senior Chef de Partie at the Park Lane Hotel and then as Sous Chef at The Dorchester Hotel.
Brandel credits his grandmother with inspiring his culinary pursuits—she owned a restaurant in his hometown of Champagne, France, where he was able to develop basic skills early. He eventually went on to study culinary arts at École Hôtelière en Marne and completed his apprenticeship at a Michelin-starred restaurant in Champagne. Following his apprenticeship, Brandel served as Chef de Tournant at a French and Italian restaurant named Boccaccio in Nice.
Mixing his French heritage with New Orleans flavor, Brandel’s goal is to create menu items that tell the story of how American culinary culture was inspired by the war era. Café Normandie’s seasonally changing menus will include modern takes on traditional French dishes, such as Poulet Normandie and Normand Fricassee, and guests will also find New Orleans Creole-inspired dishes, including a vegetarian Jambalaya and Cajun flatbread.