Alex Brennan-Martin - President, Brennan’s of Houston
“Life is short; eat well.”
The hospitality industry is Alex Brennan-Martin’s birthright, growing up not with a silver spoon in his mouth, rather a wooden spoon in his hand in one of the nation’s most acclaimed restaurants.
Alex grew up in the nationally acclaimed Commander’s Palace, owned and passionately run by his mother, New Orleans restaurant grand dame Ella Brennan. There, he tackled kitchen assignments, greeted guests, and learned the restaurant ropes by observing and participating in every role. Ella’s powerful charm, no-nonsense perspective, and sharp mentoring skills offered unique insight, as did Alex’s interactions with the celebrated chefs to whom his mother gave their starts — Paul Prudhomme, Emeril Lagasse, and the late Jamie Shannon, among others.
While traveling along the same culinary road as family members before him, Alex took a several-year detour, training at La Varrene, a prestigious culinary arts and hospitality school in Paris. Back on American soil, he worked at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York, first in the kitchen and later at the front of the house, and also at flamboyant Maxwell’s Plum. While Alex was sharpening his skills in New York, his family added several restaurants to its stellar restaurant dynasty, including Brennan’s of Houston. Alex eventually made his way south to Houston, where he was surprised to learn that the Bayou City shared many similarities with New Orleans, including a passion for exquisite food and memorable dining experiences. And the rest is history, with Alex at the helm of Brennan’s of Houston for the last 20-some-odd years.
Alex has since had his hands in many pots. Alongside his Commander’s Palace Family of Restaurant co-owners, sister Ti Adelaide Martin and cousin Lally Brennan, Brennan's warmth and hospitality has been extended to several new ventures, including Cafe Adelaide & the Swizzle Stick Bar in New Orleans in the Loew's Hotel, Bistro Alex in Hotel Sorella in CityCentre in West Houston and SoBou in The W Hotel in New Orleans which was just named Best New Restaurant by Esquire Magazine in 2012. Busy, busy man.
On Alex’s watch, the esteemed Brennan’s of Houston has achieved the Exxon Mobil four-star rating beginning in 2000, the Ivy Award, and the AAA award, among many other local and national awards and exceptional designations. Brennan’s also has been recognized as one of the Distinguished Restaurants of North America for more than a decade, is a two-time recipient of the Santé “Wine and Spirits Hospitality” award in the Southwest Region, and is listed regularly by Zagat among Houston’s “best” and “most popular” dining spots.
Alex is a recognized national leader in the restaurant business, a popular speaker at industry events, and an active community servant. Alongside friend and comrade Larry Taylor, he penned The Simple Truth, a thought-provoking yet easy-to-read top seller that details Alex’s journey through numerous management trends, only to discover that the best management techniques are, in fact, the simplest.
Among his extensive industry and community activities, Alex is a member of the Texas Restaurant Association’s President’s Council, a founding member of the American Institute of Food and Wine, Executive Committee member of the Greater Houston Visitors and Convention Bureau, and a founding member of the Texas Restaurant Association Foundation. He was named “Restaurateur of the Year” by My Table magazine and featured with his cousins as one of the “Top 50 Taste Makers” by Nation’s Restaurant News. In 2008, Alex and his family were inducted into the Culinary Institute of America’s Hall of Fame, making them one of only three families to ever win this prestigious leadership award. Ranking as his most prized accomplishment, Alex is the proud father of two lovely daughters who share his passion for great memories created around great meals.