Dick Brennan dies at 83; helped run famed New Orleans restaurant

Dick Brennan
Richard J. “Dick” Brennan Sr. helped turn the Commander’s Palace into a famed New Orleans restaurant.
(Ted Jackson, Associated Press)
Associated Press

Richard J. “Dick” Brennan Sr., who helped turn Commander’s Palace restaurant in New Orleans into a world-famous destination for Creole cuisine, has died. He was 83.

A publicist for Dickie Brennan & Co., the restaurant group run by his son, said the elder Brennan died Saturday in New Orleans. The cause was not specified.

Dick Brennan was a younger brother of Owen Brennan, founder of Brennan’s Restaurant in the French Quarter.

Following Owen’s death in 1955, Dick and his family continued operating Brennan’s while expanding to other restaurants in other cities.

A family split in the 1970s led to Dick joining his siblings John, Adelaide, Ella and Dottie as they developed Commander’s Palace in New Orleans’ Garden District, near where Brennan was born in the Irish Channel neighborhood in 1931. Among the chefs who gained fame there were Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse.

According to a biography provided by Dickie Brennan & Co., Richard married shortly after graduating from Tulane University. He completed two years of law school and enlisted in the Army. He eventually returned to New Orleans intending to finish law school. But his parents and his brother Owen died soon after, and he went to work in the family restaurant business.

At Commander’s, where his sister Ella had the lead managerial role for decades, he is credited with starting the tradition of the Sunday jazz brunch.

Fellow restaurant owner Frank Brigtsen, in a statement released Sunday, recalled him as a manager who paid close attention to detail.

“I learned to saute under the watchful eyes of Mr. Dick Brennan, who monitored every single plate that left the kitchen for Sunday Jazz Brunch at Commander’s Palace,” Brigtsen said. “Not all of my omelets passed muster. ‘Can we do a little better than that?’ he would gently ask.”

Aside from his success in the restaurant business, Dick Brennan is credited, along with his nephew Pip Brennan, with the creation of the Krewe of Bacchus, which stages one of the city’s most elaborate Carnival season parades each year on the Sunday before Mardi Gras. Founded in 1968, the krewe is famous for huge floats with national celebrities serving as “monarchs” of the parade.

Brennan, who retired in the mid-1990s, is survived by his wife of nearly 60 years, Lynne Trist Brennan; their son, Dickie Brennan; their daughter, Lauren Brennan Brower; six grandchildren; and his sisters Ella and Dottie.