Brennan’s of Houston
3300 Smith Street
Houston, TX 77006
September 29, 2011
Commander's Palace Family Affair
$150 per person inclusive
Exclusive Price For Chase Southwest
Airlines Rapid Rewards Visa Signature® cardholders:
$130 per person inclusive
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HOST VENUE Brennan’s of Houston
Since our 1967 opening as a sister restaurant to the world-famous Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, Brennan’s of Houston has evolved into the city’s premier destination for memorable dining served with true Southern hospitality. From the reservationist to the waiters, chefs and every associate behind the scenes, our team is focused on the highest standard of excellence and equally dedicated to creating enduring memories of snapshots in time: the sealing of business deals, wedding proposals, joyful celebrations, and the marking of significant milestones along life’s way. And the proof is in the (bread) pudding, with loyal patrons returning time and again to create new memories. Reflecting the same warmth as our friendly greeting, each farewell concludes with Brennan’s signature lagniappe: an abundance of unforgettably fresh pecan pralines.
GUEST CELEBRITY CHEF Tory McPhail
RESTAURANT Commander’s Palace, New Orleans LA
Tory McPhail has followed a path forged from hard work to arrive at the historic Commander’s Palace restaurant’s storied chef dais, which has cultivated the likes of Emeril Lagasse, Paul Prudhomme, and Jamie Shannon.
McPhail hails from Ferndale, WA, where he learned to appreciate local goods and the comfortable gathering place of his parents’ kitchen. Corn planted in the spring would become dinner in the summer; fish caught in the afternoon from his family’s stocked pond would make it to the plate by dusk. “I knew food didn’t just come from the grocery store and magically appear there,” he says. “Being able to watch it all grow gave me a passion for natural foods.”
After high school, McPhail attended Seattle Community College and received an ACF-accredited degree in culinary science. Counselors suggested he pursue work in either the Big Apple or the Big Easy, citing their respective fertile culinary learning grounds. New Orleans, with its history, soul, and Mardi Gras celebrations won him over, and at just 19, he was hired by Commander’s Palace Executive Chef Jamie Shannon and worked through all 12 stations of the kitchen, honing his craft and making a positive impression on his boss.
In search of “as much experience as possible, as quickly as possible,” McPhail later completed a series of stints at culinary hot spots, including the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, FL; the Michelin-starred L’Escargot in London and its sister restaurant Picasso Room; and the Caribbean/Creole-intensive Mongoose Restaurant in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In spring of 2000, McPhail returned to the Commander’s family as executive sous chef at Commander’s Palace Las Vegas. Though he loved his job there, New Orleans beckoned—as did Shannon—and he returned to the Big Easy, where the Brennan family named him executive chef of the original Commander’s Palace in January 2002.
Today, McPhail continues his dedication to creating and sustaining strong relationships with local purveyors, as well as executing exciting dishes in the Commander’s kitchen. “I’m always thinking very forward when it comes to Creole food,” he says. An animated and resolute chef who pursues culinary perfection, McPhail delights in exploring a variety of flavors in his seasonal menus—embracing Creole traditions while updating classic dishes with fresh, local ingredients.
McPhail has earned numerous accolades for his work and has appeared on several top-rated television programs, in addition to a number of industry-related events.
GUEST CELEBRITY CHEF Chris Lusk
RESTAURANT Café Adelaide, New Orleans LA
Chris Lusk’s career has spanned an eclectic range of culinary experiences—from an externship in an Irish hotel and time as a sous chef cooking Tex-Mex under Stephen Pyles at Star Canyon in Dallas, TX. to creating Asian cuisine in Florida and Italian under Mario Batali at Otto Enoteca in New York. Yet Lusk has earned his Louisiana cooking props working with the Brennan family at Foodies Kitchen in Metairie and Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. I went to cooking school, says the Johnson & Wales graduate, but Commander’s Palace was my culinary education.
Lusk hadn’t planned on cooking professionally. After a high-school job in a local restaurant, he recalls, I came home and told my mother, I’m never going to chop an onion again. After high school he earned a B.S. in psychology from Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, TX but the kitchen continued to call to him, despite the job that made him vow to never touch another onion: Once I graduated from college, I just knew I had to give it another shot.
A follower of author Harold McGee (On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen and The Curious Cook: More Kitchen Science and Lore), who writes extensively about food and science, Lusk brings a keen inquisitiveness to the Café Adelaide kitchen, studying how cooking works and using that knowledge to make improvements and changes where needed. He has something we call intellectual curiosity, Café Adelaide Co-Proprietor Ti Adelaide Martin says. It’s an endless interest in learning— particularly about food—combined with one of the most exceptional palates I’ve ever encountered. He’s a heck of a smart guy with some serious taste buds.
Lusk, who took over from Chef Danny Trace at Café Adelaide, has evolved the menu taking it into other realms, which he refers to as adding another layer—some Asian undertones with various locally sourced ingredients and techniques. For example, he created Shrimp on Shrimp on Grits, a version of that Southern classic Shrimp and Grits, adding texture by coating the Shrimp in ground, dried Shrimp, combined with crunchy Japanese Panko Bread Crumbs and bringing in tanginess and color with a piquant Golden Tomato Sauce.
His talent and inquisitiveness have earned him accolades both locally and nationally, including being names one of four breakout chefs to watch by Esquire magazine in November 2009, which also highlighted his Sweet-Corn-Crusted Redfish with Crawfish Maque Choux Hash.
GUEST CELEBRITY CHEF Roland Soza
HOST CHEF Danny Trace
RESTAURANT Brennan’s of Houston
Fresh local produce, wild and sustainable foods, and Cajun and Creole influences form the foundation for Brennan’s of Houston Executive Chef Danny Trace’s culinary style. “I put what I’ve been eating all of my life into it. I try to cook the best local food there is,” the Louisiana native says.
An integral veteran of the Commander’s Palace Family of Restaurants, Chef Trace was the executive chef of Commander’s Palace & On The Rocks Bar at HarborWalk Village in Destin, FL before coming to Houston. Chef Trace was hand-picked by co-owner Alex Brennan-Martin to re-open and guide the landmark kitchen at Brennan’s after months of rebuilding from Hurricane Ike.
An avid outdoorsman since early childhood, Chef Trace cites his father and grandfather – who taught him hunting, fishing, crabbing and crawfishing – as two of the most influential figures in his culinary path. “I just grew up around cooking, at home with my family and outside, hunting and fishing,” he says. “My brothers and I would hunt wild ducks, rabbits, deer you name it. My grandfather and uncle were both cooks in the military. The guys I know all cook. It’s kind of all we know.”
The thrill of turning the daily catch into a fresh, savory meal became his passion, landing him in the culinary arts program at esteemed Johnson & Wales University. Trace earned his culinary degree in 1995, but says his real professional education began when he started in the kitchen at Commander’s Palace. “You think you know something until you step into a place like Commander’s,” he says. Over the next ten years at Commander’s, Danny honed his skills under late Executive Chef Jamie Shannon and his mentor, Ella Brennan, who dubbed Chef Danny “the complete package.” He quickly worked his way through all stations in the kitchen, winning the attention of the Brennan’s and becoming an integral member of the venerable culinary team.
Further education has come in the field, where Trace has made a point of spending time with food producers: going out on commercial fishing and shrimp boats, visiting catfish farms, hunting wild boar and rattlesnakes. Danny has also been the witty on-air cohort on the Commander’s Palace fishing, hunting and cooking show, “Off the Menu” that aired on the Turner South Network for five years.
Weathering Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath with family in Texas, Trace was glad to come home to Louisiana to take up the culinary reins at Café Adelaide in November 2005. In early 2008, he was given the opportunity to lead the new Commander’s Palace at HarborWalk Village in beautiful Destin, Florida...although leaving New Orleans was a tough decision; Ti Adelaide Martin and Lally Brennan speculate it was the deep sea fishing that tipped the scales for Danny to make the move.
Now at this critical time of rebirth for Brennan’s of Houston, Trace is more than ready to raise this Houston culinary icon to new heights. Danny looks to balance his menu with modern Creole cooking and Brennan’s ever-evolving Texas Creole cuisine, while digging into his well of knowledge with the playful and spirit- influenced cuisine he honed at Café Adelaide, and the “Floribbean” style he created in Destin.