Executive Chef of 19 years at Commander’s Palace hangs up hat

Updated: Nov. 26, 2020 at 8:56 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - It is a bittersweet Thanksgiving Day at New Orleans iconic Commander’s Palace restaurant, as owners, employees and guests said goodbye to long-time executive chef Tory McPhail.

“It’s definitely been an emotional day,” McPhail said.

Looking back on his 27 years spent in the kitchen at Commander’s Palace, the chef said he will miss a lot of things about the restaurant.

“It’s a place where people just want to come and celebrate just because it’s a Tuesday, or drinking champagne on a Saturday night,” adding the restaurant has also been a setting for many important celebrations for the people of New Orleans and afar.

And on this Thanksgiving Day, he’s saying goodbye.

“I might swim in the fountain at about 2 o’clock,” he laughed. But not without one last run around the kitchen on the busy holiday, where many families are choosing smaller tables this year.

Working for one of the oldest restaurants in New Orleans (it has been a fixture of the city since 1893), comes with a lot of pressure and expectations. McPhail helped reopen the landmark restaurant after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

He said Commander’s Palace was closed for 13 months before reopening, and when it finally did, only four of 50 chefs returned to work.

McPhail said the restaurant came back better with a new crew, new menu and new “swagger,” as he called it.

And this year alone has presented its own set of challenges. When it comes to the pandemic and safety restrictions on restaurants and the service industry as a whole, Chef says every day there are new twists and turns.

“Although it’s been rough, it’s been exciting. It has galvanized friendships and relationships, and I think we’re going to come out of this stronger, whether we’ll be running restaurants or any other business in New Orleans.”

As a new executive chef steps into his place, McPhail knows Commander’s Palace will be in good hands.

“I could not have asked for a better transition in Chef Meg. She’s a firecracker. She’s got an amazing palate,” he said about incoming chef Meg Bickford, who has been with the restaurant since 2008.

Bickford will also be the first female head chef at the restaurant.

McPhail says for him, his last day is about having fun, stepping back and letting the crew run the show.

“I love the folks of New Orleans, and thank you for the years of service,” he said. “I’m very proud and honored to have been your chef here at this amazing restaurant for as long as I have, and I’m looking forward for many many more so I’ll be back often to say hello. So y’all keep in touch with me!”

He plans to enjoy the rest of 2020 in New Orleans before moving with his wife to Bozeman, Montana, where they both will help run three restaurants, and be closer to family in the Midwest.

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