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Black History Month

History-makers of Southeast Louisiana

Leah and Dooky Chase

Chef Leah Chase


"Everybody likes a bowl of gumbo. I like to think we changed the course of America in this restaurant over a bowl of gumbo." -- Leah Chase

Leah Chase is known as "the Queen of Creole Cuisine." She was born in Madisonville but was sent to live with her aunt in New Orleans in 1937 and to attend St. Mary's Academy for high school. After graduation, she got a job at Colonial Restaurant on Chartres Street and has been in the restaurant industry ever since.

In 1945, she met and married musician Edgar "Dooky" Chase II, whose band was playing at a Mardi Gras ball. His parents owned Dooky Chase Restaurant. After her children were old enough to attend school, Leah started working at the restaurant three days a week. She started out as a hostess, but she was soon redecorating the restaurant, changing the menu, and cooking. Because of Leah, the Dooky Chase Restaurant became well-known for its good food, antiques, and original African American art.

Before the civil rights movement, most restaurants would not serve African Americans. Leah led the change by inviting everyone to eat at Dooky Chase. The restaurant soon gained a following among locals and among black luminaries in the arts, sports, and politics who visited New Orleans. By the 1950s, the restaurant became a meeting place for activists and civic leaders, both black and white. Even though this violated segregation laws, the police did not interrupt meetings at Dooky Chase Restaurant. Groups packed into the second-floor dining room for planning sessions, while restaurant staff shuttled food up the narrow staircase.

Chase has received many awards both for her culinary work and community service including: the coveted New Orleans Times-Picayune 1997 Loving Cup Award, the Weiss Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Torch of Liberty Award, the University of New Orleans Entrepreneurship Award, the Outstanding Woman Award from the National Council of Negro Women, a lifetime achievement award from the Southern Foodways Alliance, a lifetime achievement award from the James Beard Foundation in 2016, plus many honors from the NAACP.

New Orleans’s Queen of Creole Cooking, at Ninety-Three, The New Yorker, by Brett Anderson 



The books listed below are available for you at Sims Memorial Library.