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New Orleans native Ti Adelaide Martin credits her mother, Ella Brennan, the “ grande dame” of her family’s restaurant business (which currently includes Commander’s Palace, Café Adelaide and the Swizzle Stick Bar, and SoBou in New Orleans, as well as Brennan’s of Houston) for setting the stage for her love of the restaurant business. “ When I was a child, she was always hosting these lavish parties at our house,” she recalls. “ There were always lots of interesting people there from around the country, many from the culinary world.”
Martin left her hometown to attend Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX, where she received a degree in business. After earning an MBA at Tulane University in New Orleans, Martin moved to Houston, where she worked in the real-estate industry. Martin returned to New Orleans in 1986 to assist with the family business when her mother was ill. Always an entrepreneur, she next launched a food products company called Creole Cravings, which she eventually sold to McCormick. She next got on the family restaurant bandwagon with cousins Dickie and Brad Brennan to open Palace Café in 1991, which Esquire magazine subsequently named one of the top 10 new restaurants in the country.
By 1997, Martin became full time co-proprietor of Commander’s Palace, a title she shares with her cousin Lally Brennan. At Commander’s, Martin directs the bulk of her energies toward the food and business end of things at the restaurant. In addition to her work at the restaurant, she has co-authored three books, including the James Beard Foundation-nominated Commander’s Kitchen (2001), which she wrote with former Commander’s Palace Executive Chef Jamie Shannon. It was followed by In the Land of Cocktails: Recipes and Adventures from the Cocktail Chicks (2007), a book detailing the stories of 75 cocktails and why they’re important to New Orleans, on which she collaborated with Lally Brennan. Along with current Executive Chef Tory McPhail, she also co-authored Commander’s Wild Side (2008), an ode to hunting and fishing in Louisiana inspired by Commander’s Palace’s “ Off the Menu” television series.
Of Commander’s Palace, her professional home of the past 16 years, and a touchstone in much of her life, Martin speaks with pride and nostalgia. “ We may hold the keys to Commander’s, but the restaurant really belongs to New Orleans,” she says. “ We try to live up to what people expect and want it to be even better and to represent what the city is all about— not just the food, but the way of life, the soul and the spirit that is New Orleans.”