How Local Families Keep New Orleans Culture Vibrant, Generation To Generation

The history of The Big Easy is rich and varied, and residents hope to continue that legacy

The Crescent City celebrates its 1718 French founding with a look back to past accomplishments and a striving forward for future feats. Photo credit: Paul Broussard


This past year, New Orleans celebrated its tricentennial with a variety of parties and events. But don't worry if you missed the 300th anniversary festivities— the real celebration of Crescent City art and New Orleans culture happens every single day in neighborhoods all over town. NOLA is a hybrid of European, Caribbean and African ethnicities and a hub of cultural innovation that’s made contributions to American jazz, Creole cuisine, gospel music, Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest. Families with deep roots here claim a hefty part of NOLA’s history, but they also look ahead to a future that continues to make this city, according to The New York Times, the number one place to visit on the planet.

Have a meal with the Brennan family

Images of Adelaide Brennan, a larger-than-life, theatrical personality who passed away in 1983, loom large at Cafe Adelaide, a tribute to her style and legacy. Photo credit: Cafe Adelaide

Looking to the future is in Ti Martin’s DNA. Her mother, Ella Brennan, the matriarch of one of the city’s most influential culinary families, has been innovating, creating and pushing boundaries soon after she was born in NOLA back in 1925. She is part of a family of restaurateurs, which spans three generations and employs close to 1,400 people. The elder Brennan has fostered countless talents, including the well-known Emeril Lagasse and Paul Prudhomme. She is the force of nature behind Commander’s Palace, SoBou and Cafe Adelaide, with other family members running Brennan’s, Ralph’s on the Park, Palace Cafe and Tableau, to name just a few.

“Family is very important to us, and for us, New Orleans feels like just another member of the family,” says Martin, who is a co-proprietor of her family’s restaurant group. Establishing NOLA as a culinary leader is part of her family’s legacy. Nurturing that role for generations to come is another.

Martin, along with her cousin Dickie Brennan, are two of the founding board members of the New Orleans Culinary & Hospitality Institute, better known as NOCHI, a $32 million project more than five years in the making. Opening in 2019, the school will offer intensive six-month and 13-month courses of study along with shorter classes in cocktailing and pastry arts to locals and visiting enthusiasts. “We are looking ahead to advancing the tourism industry and keeping it thriving for another 300 years,” says Martin.

Providing the soundtrack to your Crescent City visit

A youngster gets the chance to pick up the namesake horn of Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews at his Trombone Shorty Foundation.

The Andrews family is another clan instrumental in making New Orleans culture what it is today. One of NOLA’s largest musical families with its roots in Treme, the Andrews’ sound encompasses grandfather Jessie Hill and his iconic “Ooh Poo Pah Doo” anthem, recorded in 1960. The list of talented relatives spans generations, including Walter “Papoose” Nelson, Glen Andrews, “Buddah” Glen Andrews, Eldridge Andrews, Buster Terry Nelson Andrews, Bruce Nelson, Glen David Andrews and his cousins James Andrews and Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews.

Exposed to the sounds of gospel, R&B, funk and jazz since early childhood, the younger generation of Andrews talent is deeply woven into the musical fabric of New Orleans culture, regulars on the club circuit and onstage at festivals and Mardi Gras balls.

As a way to preserve the city’s musical culture and inspire future generations of musicians, Troy Andrews established the Trombone Shorty Foundation and its flagship music education program, the Trombone Shorty Academy. The Academy supports musically inclined youth, providing high school musicians with mentorships and lessons in musical performance ranging from traditional jazz to hip-hop. The Fredman Music Business Institute, another program within the Trombone Shorty Foundation, delivers practical business instruction from music industry leaders.

Creating and nurturing future thought leaders in hospitality, music, arts and culture will help ensure the sights, sounds and tastes of New Orleans will remain well into the next century. For a city that’s been setting the table, shaking the cocktails and creating the beat for 300 years, it’s the only way to go.


Ready to travel? Find hotels in New Orleans.



More to Explore


Big Sounds in the Big Easy

Tune in to these records, podcasts and live streams to get into the rhythm of your visit.

Read More

Top 10 Attractions

Visiting New Orleans is as easy as 1,2,3 with our guide to the top attractions.

Read More

Live Jazz in the Big Easy

Dance the night away at some of New Orleans’ favorite jazz venues.

Read More


Search Hotels