NewsAround Acadiana

Actions

Leah Chase, matriarch of New Orleans food scene, has died

Posted at 10:33 AM, Jun 02, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-02 18:23:13-04
Leah Chase
Courtesy The Advocate
Advocate photo by Max Becherer

Leah Chase, the matriarch of New Orleans cooking and a civil rights icon, has died at 96.

Chase shepherded Dooky Chase’s Restaurant from a sandwich shop that catered to patrons buying lottery tickets to the first fine-dining, white-tablecloth restaurant for African Americans in the city, the AP reports.

During the civil rights movement, she fed activists like Thurgood Marshall and Martin Luther King Jr. She broke the city’s segregation laws by seating both white and black customers and sent food to jailed activists, the AP reports.

To read the story posted by our media partners at The Advocate, click here.

The Chase family released the following statement:

“The Chase family is heartbroken to share the news that our Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother, Leah Chase, passed away surrounded by her family on June 1, 2019. Leah Chase, lovingly referred to as the Queen of Creole Cuisine, was the executive chef and co-owner of the historic and legendary Dooky Chase’s Restaurant. She was a major supporter of cultural and visual arts and an unwavering advocate for civil liberties and full inclusion of all. She was a proud entrepreneur, a believer in the Spirit of New Orleans and the good will of all people, and an extraordinary woman of faith.

“Mrs. Chase was a strong and selfless matriarch. Her daily joy was not simply cooking, but preparing meals to bring people together. One of her most prized contributions was advocating for the Civil Rights Movement through feeding those on the front lines of the struggle for human dignity. She saw her role and that of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant to serve as a vehicle for social change during a difficult time in our country’s history. Throughout her tenure, Leah treasured all of her customers and was honored to have the privilege to meet and serve them.

“While we mourn her loss, we celebrate her remarkable life, and cherish the life lessons she taught us. The Family will continue her legacy of “Work, Pray, and Do for Others.”

Grateful To You,

The Chase Family

Chase didn’t slow down at all as the years passed; she still made it into the restaurant kitchen using a walker. Back in 2013, New Orleans journalist Jarvis DeBerry talked to her about that:

As word of her death spread, chefs, political leaders and friends began posting about her on social media. Instagram was flooded with photos of famous chefs and personalities posing with the Queen of Creole Cooking.

Here are some of those Instagram posts:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Being on top chef I had the honor cooking for Leah Chase twice , we had a gumbo challenge and never ever had a true gumbo before that …. I remember her saying “my dear nice try but this is not gumbo” . The second time we at Dookie Chase and when she walked in her aura reminded me of my late granny I couldn’t stop thinking about anything thing but my granny who taught me how to cook. Since moving to New Orleans , we became friends and I gravitated towards her everytime I saw her . She always said to me “Nina , you have to succeed! We are counting on you to make it … as a black woman , a businesswoman who can inspire so many others in a male driven world . Miss Leah, I hope to continue to make you proud .She is Le Grand Dame to me always . She was always in her kitchen everytime I would go and see her.I love you and miss you . Rest In Peace

A post shared by Nina Compton (@ninacompton) on

 

Here are some of the tweets we found: