‘She taught me how to be a true New Orleanian’: Chef Tory McPhail looks back on Ella Brennan

NEW ORLEANS --  He was from the snowy Pacific Northwest, stepping into the hot and humid Commander's Palace kitchen 26 years ago.

What did Ella Brennan see in young Tory McPhail, from Ferndale, Washington? A disciplined and "phenomenal" chef whom she described as her "Rock of Gibraltar" and "part of the family."

On the day she passed away, Chef McPhail told WGNO that he felt the same way about her.

"She was always kind of that mother (or) grandmother that I always really looked up to," said McPhail, who has been the executive chef at Commander's Palace for the past 16 years. "She taught me how to be a southern gentleman ... how to be a true New Orleanian."

Ella Brennan died Thursday morning (May 31) at her home next door to the restaurant she made famous. The matriarch of the Brennan family was 92 years old.

"I'm eternally grateful," McPhail told us, "and certainly blessed to be the chef here at Commander's."

Mcphail said the restaurant's iconic sign would "be dark" tonight (Thursday), but the restaurant will remain open, McPhail said, "carrying on Ella's wishes."