NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Richard J. "Dick" Brennan Sr., who helped turn Commander's Palace restaurant into a world-famous destination for Creole cuisine and co-founded one of the city's best-loved Mardi Gras organizations, has died at age 83.
A publicist for Dickie Brennan & Co., the restaurant group run by his son, said the elder Brennan died Saturday.
Richard Brennan was the brother of Owen Brennan, founder of Brennan's Restaurant in the French Quarter.
Following Owen's death in the 1950s, Richard and his family continued operating Brennan's while expanding to other restaurants in other cities.
A family split in the 1970s led to Richard joining his siblings John, Adelaide, Ella and Dottie as they developed Commander's Palace in New Orleans' Garden District, not far from 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 within a year of each other, and he went to work in the family restaurant business.
At Commander's, he is credited with starting the tradition of the Sunday jazz brunch.
Fellow restaurant owner Frank Brigsten, 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," Brigsten 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, Richard 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 is survived by his wife of nearly 60 years, Lynne Trist Brennan, two children and six grandchildren.