Leah Chase

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Leah Chase
Leah Chase in April 2008
Born (1923-01-06) January 6, 1923 (age 93)
Madisonville, Louisiana, United States
Education Colonial Restaurant, French Quarter, New Orleans, United States
Culinary career
Cooking style Creole

Leah Chase (born January 6, 1923) is a New Orleans chef, author and television personality. She is known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine, and advocates for African-American art and Creole cooking. Her restaurant, Dooky Chase, was known as a gathering place during the 1960s among many who participated in the Civil Rights movement,[citation needed] and was known as a gallery due to its extensive African-American art collection.

Chase has been the recipient of a multitude of awards and honors. In her 2002 biography, Chase's awards and honors occupy over two pages.[1] Chase was inducted into the James Beard Foundation's Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America in 2010.[2] She was honored with a lifetime achievement award from the Southern Foodways Alliance in 2000.[3] Chase received honorary degrees from Tulane University, Dillard University,[4][5] Our Lady of Holy Cross College, Madonna College,[6] Loyola University New Orleans,[7] and Johnson & Wales University. She was awarded Times-Picayune Loving Cup Award in 1997.[8][9] The Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana named a permanent gallery in Chase's honor in 2009.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Leah Chase was born to Creole parents in Madisonville, Louisiana, United States. When Chase was 14 years old, she moved to New Orleans to live with relatives and attend St. Mary's Academy. After high school, Chase worked in the Colonial Restaurant in the French Quarter in New Orleans. In 1945, she married musician Edgar "Dooky" Chase II, whose parents owned the Dooky Chase Restaurant. Chase began working at the restaurant during the 1950s, and over time, she eventually converted the menu to reflect her own family's Creole recipes. She also developed an interest in African-American art and began to display dozens of paintings by local African-American artists.

Dooky Chase's Restaurant with flood lines still visible, May 2006.

Dooky Chase's 5th Ward location was flooded by Hurricane Katrina and was not scheduled to reopen until the summer of 2006. To save Chase's African-American art collection from damage, her grandson placed the art collection in storage. The New Orleans restaurant community got together on April 14, 2006 (Holy Thursday) to hold a benefit,[10] charging $75 to $500 per person for a gumbo z'herbes, fried chicken, and bread pudding lunch at a posh French Quarter restaurant. The guests consumed 50 gallons of gumbo and raised $40,000 for the 82-year-old Mrs. Chase. Dooky Chase restaurant was scheduled to open April 5, 2007.[citation needed] It opened mostly for take-out and special events because of a shortage of trained waitstaff.

In the 2012 revival of Tennessee Williams's classic New Orleans play A Streetcar Named Desire, which had an all-African-American cast, a mention of the restaurant Galatoire's (which was segregated during the play's post-war 1940s time period) was changed to a mention of Dooky Chase's Restaurant, which was integrated.[11]

Leah Chase inspired the Disney character Tiana of The Princess and the Frog.[12]

She hosts a cooking show devoted to Creole cooking, and she is the author of several cookbooks.

Cookbooks by Leah Chase[edit]

The Art of Leah Chase[edit]

From April 24, 2012 to September 16, 2012, the New Orleans Museum of Art exhibited Leah Chase: Paintings by Gustave Blache III. The exhibition documented chef Leah Chase in the kitchen and the dining room at Dooky Chase Restaurant. Asked whether she thought the rendering was accurate, Chase, 89, said the young artist had gotten it right. “I told him, ‘You could have made me look like Halle Berry or Lena Horne, but you made it look like me,’” she said.[13]

Leah Chase in the Smithsonian[edit]

Blache's painting, Cutting Squash, from the exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art was acquired for its permanent collection by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in 2011. “We are always looking for portraits of nationally prominent figures,” National Portrait Gallery chief curator Brandon Fortune said. “It is a very interesting image of a woman at work, doing a very simple task, cutting squash,” . . . “But in some ways it transcends the everyday and becomes something of national significance.” Another one of the Smithsonian Institutions, National Museum of African History and Culture, came calling for another painting of Chase from the Blache series in 2013 to acquire Leah Red Coat Stirring (Sketch) in 2013. Leah Chase is the first chef who has two portraits is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution, both the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Leah Chase: Exhibition Catalogue[edit]

The catalogue for the exhibition Leah Chase: Paintings by Gustave Blache III was published by Hudson Hills Press in the Fall of 2012.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Judy Walker, The Times-Picayune. "The Queen of Creole Cuisine's latest honor is a museum gallery". NOLA.com. Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  2. ^ "New Orleans chefs make list of James Beard food awards | wwltv.com New Orleans". Wwltv.com. 2010-03-22. Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  3. ^ "SFA | Hall of Fame | Lifetime Achievement Award | Leah Chase". Southernfoodways.com. Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  4. ^ "New Orleans, Louisiana Local News". Nola.com. 2009-09-30. Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  5. ^ "Children's Defense Fund: Children's Defense Fund". Cdf.childrensdefense.org. Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  6. ^ New Orleans Classic Desserts – Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  7. ^ "Gov. Jindal, Guantanamo attorney to speak at 2009 Loyola commencement – Herbie Hancock to receive honorary degree – Loyola University New Orleans". Noah.loyno.edu. 2009-04-24. Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  8. ^ "Loving Cup winners" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-07-29. 
  9. ^ Eliot Kamenitz / The Times-Picayune. "Leah Chase selected for 1997 T-P Loving Cup". NOLA.com. Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  10. ^ The Times-Picayune Archive (2010-04-01). "Gumbo tradition lures the Holy Thursday faithful to Dooky Chase's Restaurant". NOLA.com. Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  11. ^ NPR Staff (2012-04-21). "Blair Underwood On Stanley, Stella And 'Streetcar'". NPR.com. Retrieved 2012-04-23. 
  12. ^ Noyer, Jérémie (June 1, 2010). "The Princess And The Frog's Directors John Musker and Ron Clements take us to "the other side" of animation!". Animated Views. Animated Views. Retrieved 19 August 2013. 
  13. ^ MacCash, Doug. "Leah Chase likeness enshrined in the National Portrait Gallery". The Times-Picayune. The Times-Picayune. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  14. ^ Leah Chase: Paintings by Gustave Blache III. Hudson Hills Press. Fall 2012. ISBN 1-55595-378-6. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 

External links[edit]