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Meet Chef John Brennan of Elm City Social and Olives + Oil

In New Haven, it’s no secret our culinary scene runs deep – from diverse cultural cuisines to the unique chefs at the helm of many of our beloved restaurants and eateries across the city. Let us introduce you to Chef John Brennan, the owner of not only one, but two restaurants in New Haven – Elm City Social and Olives + Oil. In this special spotlight, get to know Chef John Brennan, from his early background and most famed dishes to how he is influencing the culinary scene in New Haven today. 

Growing up as the eldest of three in a Sicilian household, cooking was very much at the center of Chef John Brennan’s day-to-day routine. Over the years, he climbed the restaurant ladder – working in many different kitchens to learn new skills along the way, eventually leading him to open his very first restaurant in 2014 – Elm City Social. And only one year later, John later opened up his second restaurant – Olives + Oil. “My family and heritage are a large majority of my culinary influences,” says John. “I try to take inspiration anywhere I can find it whether that is reflecting on a dining experience or a dish I experienced from another culture, cuisine or other chef or simply through self-education.”

As a restaurant owner and chef, one of the most important elements is curating a well-rounded menu. “A great menu has to be reflective of your passion as a chef but also has to be what your guest craves,” says John. At Elm City Social, the chicken and waffles have always been a fan favorite. Pulling inspiration from his travels to Kentucky and Tennessee, he combines southern flair with his own cooking style. “That’s why the chicken is marinated with gochujang, fried in my own secret blend of herbs and spices, and sits on top of a bacon and cheddar cheese laced waffle, blueberry jam, fresh basil, cracked peppercorn maple syrup and whiskey butter,” he explains.

Over at Olives + Oil, the arancini, a traditional Italian dish, is one of their most popular small plates. “We have many delicious items on our menu but these cheesy rice balls set in a bed of warm vodka sauce will get you to your happy place, and quickly!”

If you’re searching for a true local foodie experience in New Haven, then we definitely recommend heading on over to Elm City Social for a taste of their famed chicken and waffles during brunch or Olives + Oil for the arancini, fresh pasta, and cocktails at happy hour. As John puts it, “New Haven’s culinary scene is rooted in tradition and ever-changing. It is one of the few eclectic culinary atmospheres in this state and I am proud to be a part of it.” 

And we’re proud to share a table with you, Chef John.

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