A key player in the revival of one of New Orleans' historic restaurants is moving on. Slade Rushing has left his position as executive chef of Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner Brennan's Restaurant.
Rushing confirmed to local media that he was pursuing new opportunities and that he was grateful for his time at the restaurant. "Brennan's has been a huge learning curve for me. They have a great team and I know they're going to continue to shine there," he told The New Orleans Advocate.
Rushing was part of a new dawn at Brennan's when he joined in 2014. The landmark was founded by the gregarious restaurateur Owen Brennan in 1946. When he died in 1956, his siblings—Ella, John, Adelaide, Dick and Dottie—took charge. Brennan's gained an international reputation for New Orleans–style hospitality, including lavish breakfasts and the now-classic dessert bananas Foster.
Two decades later, a conflict with Owen's widow and sons led to a family split. Owen's siblings focused on Commander's Palace, a Grand Award winner since 2012. The sons held on to Brennan's and enjoyed decades of success. The restaurant was a longtime Grand Award winner, between 1983 and 2007, but more squabbling within the family sapped the restaurant's quality, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005 destroyed the wine cellar. The restaurant ended up in a foreclosure auction in 2013.
Ralph Brennan, John's son and Owen's nephew, bought the building with financial partner Terry White, purchased the name, then spent an estimated $20 million renovating it. His team has rebuilt the wine program, which now offers more than 2,700 selections. He hired Rushing, one of the city's more innovative young chefs, to helm the kitchen.
Prior to his time at Brennan's, Rushing spent seven years operating the New Orleans restaurant MiLa with his wife and fellow chef Allison Vines-Rushing. Before that he worked in well-known spots in New York and San Francisco. He managed to both revitalize Brennan's classics and put creative new dishes on the menu.
Rushing now enters a new chapter in his career. "It was amicable," Ralph Brennan told Wine Spectator. "We all hope that Slade's future endeavors bring him the utmost success, and we look forward to identifying the next generation of culinary leadership for the restaurant." Ryan Hacker, executive sous chef, has taken the helm of the 40-person kitchen for the time being.
Keep up with the latest restaurant news from our award winners: Subscribe to our free Private Guide to Dining newsletter, and follow us on Twitter at WSRestoAwards and on Instagram at wsrestaurantawards.