Celebrity Chefs

Turtles on parade: New Orleans restaurant bounces back with signature soup

Chef Slade Rushing on the restaurant's revamp and attracting new customers


Brennan's restaurant has been an institution in New Orleans since opening back in 1946. After closing its doors for a brief time in 2013 due to foreclosure, the restaurant reopened last November with a newly renovated dining room and a new executive chef.

Chef Slade Rushing has revamped the menu, adding touches of Vietnamese influence while treading carefully around the classics like Eggs Sardou and Turtle Soup.

"Everyone in New York has an opinion on pizza. In New Orleans, they have an opinion about Turtle Soup."

- Slade Rushing, Brennan's executive chef

"We don't take ourselves too seriously," Rushing told FoxNews.com. "We have a lot of old customers and we welcome them back and we love them because they actually hold onto the tradition, but we're trying to attract a new customer, too."

Turtle Soup may catch some tourists visiting the French Quarter restaurant off-guard. The soup actually dates back to England in the 1800s and the version served at Brennan's shows signs of Greek, French and Creole influence. The dish is popular across Louisiana.

"Everyone in New York has an opinion on pizza. In New Orleans, they have an opinion about Turtle Soup, so it's something we have to be good at," Rushing said.

Recipe: Brennan's Turtle Soup

Rushing assures customers that no endangered species of turtle are used in Brennan's soup - just Louisiana farm-raised turtles.

But besides the turtles in the soup, there are live turtles on the grounds at Brennan's. The restaurant even held a parade of turtles to restore the reptiles to their courtyard fountain after renovations were complete.

Since re-opening, Brennan's has been on an upswing; Chef Rushing was recently announced as a finalist for a James Beard Foundation Award in the Best Chef: South category.

"I love what I do," Rushing said. "I'm surrounded by great people. It's great to be a part of one of these institutions to keep it alive."