Lally Brennan & Ti Adelaide Martin

Co-Proprietors, Commander’s Palace

Fighting for Survival with “The Zoom That Saved Wednesdays”

Led by Lally Brennan and Ti Adelaide Martin, iconic New Orleans restaurant Commander’s Palace served as a shining example of the entrepreneurial spirit this year.

“Our team’s approach was, ‘Let’s try anything,’” said Martin.

While being true to their history as a premier dining establishment, Martin and her co-proprietor, Lally Brennan, launched several new ventures over the course of the year to keep the operation going.

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First was connecting with nationwide food delivery service in May 2020 to bring Commander’s cuisine to an audience across the country for the first time ever. There was a learning curve involved; their first offering was turtle soup and quail, sales of which tapered off after an initial burst. “That was maybe a little too adventurous,” recalled Brennan. “We had to figure out what the customer would enjoy.”

The venture has nonetheless a success, tripling the restaurant’s sales.

Brennan and Martin have also partnered with two local beverage companies — French Market Coffee, to create a custom coffee and chicory blend, and El Guapo Bitters, to craft an exclusive line of cocktail mixers. Each will be found on your local grocery store shelves soon.

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“We are still not making money in the restaurant,” Martin said, “so we need all of this just to survive.”

The restaurant has also received global attention for its Wednesday night wine and cheese Zoom party. Since April 2020, Sommelier Dan Davis has led a variety show-style party on Zoom that has been regularly attended by over 1,000 New Orleanians. Attendees purchase tickets and then pick up the wine and cheese specified for the evening at local stores before settling in (often in costume) to enjoy themed evenings that include performances from local artists and the opportunity to learn from Davis, along with wine and cheesemakers from around the globe. In October, the party moved nationwide as the restaurant began shipping wine, cheese and charcuterie packages to those eager to join in the fun.

On top of all this, Commander’s Palace has also launched a permanent “to-go” business called Le Petit Bleu.

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Working with their staff to develop these innovations has been a joy for Martin and Brennan, as well as a learning experience.

“The pleasure the team has gotten out of their entrepreneurial accomplishments has been fun to watch,” Martin said. “It’s taught me to look into people and see their talents.” “You have to carve out the time to be creative and do creative things,” added Brennan. “That’s been a positive, that we had that time.”

“We’re just a little microcosm of the city, creating new jobs with new businesses,” concluded Martin. “We hope to help fan the flames of entrepreneurism in New Orleans.”

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