When photographer Buff Strickland and I approached Commander’s Palace, we were greeted by two vivacious ladies in black pants and pink tops. Lally Brennan and “Ti” Adelaide Martin were the definition of New Orleans charm — impeccably put-together and disarmingly friendly. “Do you know what Ti means?” asked Lally with a devious smile. “That’s short for ‘petite’,” chimed in Ti. “The french word for small.”
As a child she was dubbed “Ti Aledaide”, a common New Orleans way of distinguishing between relatives with the same name. In this case the older Adelaide was the girls’ aunt, Adelaide Brennan, who once famously picked out a can of aqua blue paint for the restaurant exterior in the early 1970s. The two first cousins are now co-proprietors of Commander’s Palace, and as they led us through the glossy black doors the pride they took in the family business was palpable.
We took in the maze of chandeliered dining rooms with wonder as staff members bustled about preparing tables for the day. One hallway led us into a large dining room entirely full of employees. They were seated at the white linened tables, listening quietly to a very intense discussion concerning bow ties. The atmosphere was tense. “Oh, those are the managers,” whispered Lally. “They’re having their daily meeting. Every dining room has it’s own manager here.”
We continued on through the kitchen, across an atrium, and into yet another dining room. We were already overwhelmed and impressed by Commander’s Palace, and we hadn’t even tasted the food. By the time we made it back to the foyer, the restaurant was ready to open for the day. The first wave of guests in jackets and heels stood crowded in the tiled lobby. The hostess, with a smile as polished as her pearl earrings, greeted them warmly. “Welcome to Commander’s Palace. What are we celebrating today?”
photographed by buff strickland