Leah Chase, 1923-2019

  • Leah-Chase-WWP

Woman Category: CulinaryWoman Tags: African-American Women, Chef, and NOLA Women

  • HerStory

    An African-American activist and a legendary famous chef, known as “The Queen of Creole Cooking.”

    Born to a Creole family in Madisonville, LA, the second of 13 children. She moved to New Orleans to attend school since in her hometown there was no catholic school for African-Americans. After high school, she managed two amateur boxers and worked as a waitress, then she established her love for food and feeding people.
    At the age of 23, she married the jazz musician Edgar “Dooky” Chase II, and the couple had four children. Dooky’s parents owned a street corner stand selling lottery tickets and homemade po’boy sandwiches. Chase worked in the stand’s kitchen, and over time, she and her husband took over and turned the place into a restaurant named “Dooky Chase.” She started serving her family Creole dishes on white tablecloth tables, which were available at whites-only restaurants.
    During the 1960s, it became a gathering center for civil rights activists and was one of the few places in New Orleans where people from different races could meet without segregation. Throughout the years, the restaurant hosted many important figures, among them are Martin Luther King Jr., Ernest “Dutch” Morial, A. P. Tureaud, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
    During the Civil Rights period, Chase began collecting paintings and sculptures of African-American artists and displayed them at her restaurant. She also wrote three cookbooks and received many achievements and awards. Dooky Chase is considered a premier restaurant for authentic Creole Cuisine in NOLA and has received professional recognition over the years, including “one of the 40 most important restaurants of the past 40 years” given by Food & Wine magazine.

    “In my dining room, we changed the course of America over a bowl of gumbo and some fried chicken”

    “In my dining room, we changed the course of America over a bowl of gumbo and some fried chicken”


    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • When she studied art in high school, the museums during the Jim Crow South were segregated. Her first visit to an art museum was when she was 54 years old. Later she served on many art museum’s boards.
    • She was the inspiration for Princess Tiana in Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” 2010 movie.
    • Her red chef’s coat is on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
  • More About Her Legacy
    Creations By and About Her:

    * Cookbooks she wrote
    * Books about her


    She received many official awards and honors; all are listed on two pages in her biography. Among them are:
    * James Beard Lifetime Achievement award (2016)
    * Honorary degrees from several universities and colleges
    * The Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans named a permanent gallery in her honor in 2009

  • Watch and Learn More

  • One of Her Landmarks

    No Records Found

    Sorry, no records were found. Please adjust your search criteria and try again.

    Google Map Not Loaded

    Sorry, unable to load Google Maps API.

  • Booking.com


  • Gumbo 101 with Chef Leah Chase

    What goes into an authentic Louisiana Gumbo? In restaurants, kitchens and cookbooks all over America, you find menu items masquerading as Louisiana Gumbo. So, how do you know it’s the real thing? The iconic Queen of Creole Cuisine, New Orleans Chef Leah Chase has the scoop on gumbo. Watch this episode to make sure your next bowl is the real deal.
    Welcome to NOURISH with rocket scientist and whole hog barbecue pit master, Dr. Howard Conyers! Think of this show as food for your mind, body and soul.

    Host and Co-Producer: Dr. Howard Conyers Writer and Co-Producer: Christina Melton
    Director and Post Production Supervisor: Donald "D.Ray!" Washington
    Videographer: Bennie Robertson
    Graphics: Ryan Golden
    Original Music: Brass-a-holics from New Orleans, LA
    The Mike Foster Project from Baton Rouge, LA
    Produced by PBS Digital Studios and Louisiana Public Broadcasting

    Made possible with funding from The Corporation for Public Broadcasting

  • Photo credit - Wikipedia.