Black History Month: Person of the Week, Leah Chase

To celebrate Black History Month, I am sharing features about inspirational black leaders in the food community.  This week, I want to feature Leah Chase and her restaurant Dooky Chase.  Read last week's post about Will Allen. During its heyday, Count Basie, Sarah Vaughn, and Lena Horne frequented Dooky Chase, a legendary New Orleans restaurant. In his great song "Early in the Morning," Ray Charles even sang, "I went to Dooky Chase, to get me something to eat." Leah Chase runs this iconic restaurant today; even though Hurricane Katrina devastated its 5th Ward home, Dooky Chase has reopened, and Leah Chase continues to cook Creole food in its kitchen. From gumbo z'herbes to bread pudding, Dooky Chase's dishes embody an enthusiasm for a unique Louisiana culinary tradition.

Born January 6, 1923, Leah Chase grew up in Louisiana and married Edgar "Dooky" Chase II in 1945. Over time, she became more involved in running the Chase family restaurant, slowly integrating her own family's cuisine into the restaurant's menu. Dooky Chase transformed into a gathering place for black leaders and cultural luminaries during the Civil Rights movement. As a chef, Leah Chase cooks great food, but she's an important historical figure, too.

The recipient of numerous awards, a cookbook author, and an inspiring member of the black community, Leah Chase is a living legend. I admire her cooking and her leadership. On your next visit to New Orleans, make sure to visit Dooky Chase and learn more about Creole cooking.