Leah Chase, Leah Lange Chase

Executive chef Leah Chase (1923–2019), born Leah Lange in Madisonville, Louisiana, and known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine, brought style, class, Creole food (gumbo, shrimp stew, Jambalaya), and a haven of safety to Dooky Chase's Restaurant during the U.S. civil rights movement, when she prepared food for the mixed-race Freedom Riders and civil rights leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., many of whom gathered in the upstairs meeting room to strategize the next approach, move, march, or event. About these gatherings, she said, "In some ways, we changed the course of America, right here in this restaurant." When Leah came to New Orleans, she waited tables in the French Quarter, where she came to love food and serving food to others. After marrying a local musician, Edgar "Dooky" Chase, Jr., the couple eventually took over his father's restaurant, Dooky Chase's, in operation since 1941. Leah also made the restaurant a venue for showcasing the work of African-American artists. As a collector and patron of the arts, she also served on the board of the New Orleans Museum of Fine Arts and testified before the U.S. Congress, lobbying for increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Her cookbooks include The Dooky Chase Cookbook (1990); Leah Chase: Listen, I Say Like This (2002); and And Still I Cook (2011). She appeared on television with other famous chefs, such as Julia Child, and received many honorary degrees and awards, including the James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award (2016), and was inducted into the African American Chefs Hall of Fame. She is featured in the Culture Expressions Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African American History and Culture. She passed away on June 1, 2019, at the age of 96.

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