Longtime Commander’s Palace chef departs, and for first time a woman leads the kitchen | Where NOLA Eats

For the first time in almost two decades, Commander’s Palace has a new chef. For the first time in the famous restaurant’s long history that chef is a woman.

Tory McPhail, executive chef since 2002, has resigned and is moving to Montana, where he will work with a local restaurant group in the mountain town of Bozeman.



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Chef Meg Bickford of Commander’s Palace restaurant in New Orleans, Oct. 2020.




His successor at Commander’s Palace is Meg Bickford, who was previously executive sous chef.

Bickford, 34, has risen through the ranks at Commander’s Palace and is now the first woman to lead the landmark restaurant’s kitchen.

To Bickford, that speaks to a culture of mentoring at Commander’s Palace and to its family leadership. The restaurant is run today by Ti Martin and Lally Brennan, cousins who grew up in the restaurant.

“I’ve had a lot of opportunities to grow here, and a lot of people who invested the time and effort and who believed in me,” Bickford said. “That’s what we do here, and that’s why I’m in this position today.”

Passing the torch

Bickford’s new position is among the most prominent in the New Orleans culinary world, with a role that goes beyond directing its sprawling kitchen.



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Commander’s Palace was voted tops in four categories, including Best new Orleans Restaurant.




Commander’s Palace is a byword for New Orleans fine dining and among the best-known restaurants in the region. Though its history goes back to 1893, it became an emblem of modern New Orleans cuisine in the 1970s after the Brennan family acquired the vintage restaurant. It pioneered haute Creole cuisine, which reshaped the national reputation of New Orleans food from a bulwark of tradition to a hotbed of innovation.



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Commander’s Palace chef Paul Prudhomme instructs apprentices in the restaurant’s kitchen. Prudhomme, then-executive chef at Commander’s Palace Restaurant, had eight apprentices working under him.




Commander’s Palace has produced some of the world’s most famous chefs, namely Paul Prudhomme and his immediate successor, Emeril Lagasse. At the same time, the restaurant has held a reputation as the “finishing school” for New Orleans culinary talent, for the generations of hospitality pros who have come through its doors.



Matriarch and mentor: How Ella Brennan’s belief in mentoring profoundly impacted culinary life of New Orleans

Ella Brennan has an expression she uses to describe her favorite chefs, especially those she worked with closely at Commander’s Palace.

That role is foremost in Bickford’s mind as she steps into the kitchen’s highest position. She acknowledges the issues of equality and inclusion now running through American discourse, and she’s driven by the potential she sees to do more.

“We need to recognize our responsibilities to our people, in our community and in our workplace,” Bickford said.

“I love that our leaders have stepped up. Our business has to reflect our community. Diversity is incredibly important to me and to this business. I also think we need to do a better job than what we’re doing, and

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Longtime House parliamentarian to step down

Longtime House staffer Tom Wickham is stepping down as parliamentarian of the House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Democrats push resolution to battle climate change, sluggish economy and racial injustice | Senators reach compromise on greenhouse gas amendment stalling energy bill | Trump courts Florida voters with offshore drilling moratorium On The Money: Senate Democrats block GOP relief bill | Senators don’t expect stimulus until after election | Jobless claims plateau GOP senators say coronavirus deal dead until after election MORE (D-Calif.) said on Friday.

He will be replaced by Jason SmithJason Thomas SmithPass the Primary Care Enhancement Act Trump coronavirus briefings put health officials in bind House GOP lawmakers urge Senate to confirm Vought MORE, who serves as the deputy parliamentarian.

In announcing the change, Pelosi praised Wickham as “a master of House rules and procedure, whose incisive legal acumen and absolute professionalism have strengthened the People’s House and benefited the American people whom we serve.”

“In his 25 years of distinguished service,” she said in a statement, “Tom upheld the great Constitutional underpinnings of the historic role of Parliamentarian with excellence and integrity.”

Wickham previously held the roles of assistant parliamentarian and deputy parliamentarian. Then-Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFive things we learned from this year’s primaries Bad blood between Pelosi, Meadows complicates coronavirus talks Wary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker MORE (R-Ohio) gave Wickham the top parliamentarian job in 2012.

As parliamentarian, Wickham’s job is serve as the House’s referee, providing nonpartisan guidance on parliamentary rules and procedures. That’s put him in the middle of some contentious fights between the Democrats and Republicans.

Last summer, Wickham ruled that Pelosi’s floor remarks calling President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: I feel ‘deep down fury’ that Trump downplayed pandemic NYT reporter removed from Trump rally in Michigan Trump says he didn’t share classified information following Woodward book MORE’s tweets about four first-term women of color “racist” was out of order. The House, led by Pelosi’s party, then voted to overrule Wickham and her remarks were allowed to remain in the Congressional Record.

Pelosi also had praise for Smith.

“Jason brings outstanding experience, a brilliant legal mind and great rigor of judgment to this historic responsibility, and I am confident that he will uphold and advance the proud traditions of this critical office,” Pelosi said. “As we transition to a new Parliamentarian, we do so committed to fostering diversity in the running of this office and its future leadership.”

Smith is not related to the GOP congressman by the same name, Rep. Jason Smith of Missouri, who is a member of the leadership team.

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