Hurricane Ella: Miss Ella Brennan’s Journey to Forge a Legacy in New Orleans’ Top Restaurants


  • Catherine Grayson Tulane University


Even though cooking is an activity associated with women, restauranteering is a man’s game. Regardless of industry, women entrepreneurs are forced to tackle both social and legal gender inequities and face myriad leadership challenges that their male counterparts do not. As evident as gender inequities in the workplace are today, the factors of discrimination were compounded in mid-1950s America. The unique case of Miss Ella Brennan poses a compelling and inspiring women’s leadership story. Without a formal education, she rose to the top of New Orleans’ kitchens, becoming one of the most renowned restauranteurs in the country and earning the nickname “Hurricane Ella”. Nevertheless, a divisive family rift forced her out of New Orleans’ top kitchens and left her to start anew with nothing more than a decaying building and tarnished family name. As she got back on her feet, Miss Ella had to evaluate her life’s work and determine how to best rebuild in the restaurant industry at a time when America was unwilling to let a woman compete in a man’s game, let alone win. Being unafraid to lead change and remaining brave in the face of challenges, Miss Ella’s story counters narratives that formal expertise is necessary to achieve great culinary success. Her case serves to exemplify the value in breaking tradition and the necessity of self-assurance and grit to do so.