In this Jan. 20, 2009 file photo, Chef Leah Chase, owner of Dooky Chase’ prepares for lunch at her restaurant in New Orleans. (Associated Press)
Creole chef Leah Chase is practically synonymous with New Orleans. She was born in 1923, one of 14 children. She was raised in Madisonville a small town in Louisiana. Due to the Jim Crow laws that prevented her from continuing her education, she moved to New Orleans to stay with her aunt to finish high school.
Throughout her lifetime Chase has had the opportunity of managing two amateur boxers and was the first woman to mark the racehorse board for a local bookie. But, nothing could compare to her favorite job of waiting tables. This would soon be a significant start to the beginning of her career as a chef, redesigning the entire menu after her Creole background.
In the year 1946, she married the owner of a street corner sandwich and lottery ticket stand Edgar “Dooky” Chase Jr. and later had four children. Soon, the pair took over the business and turned it into a sit down restaurant where entertainers, civil rights leaders, the Freedom Riders, President Barack Obama and many more would enjoy many meals made by the “Queen.” Of the historical memories made inside the restaurant, none could compare to memories made during the 1960s when interracial groups publicly met to discuss the strategies for the Civil Rights Movement.
The tasteful artistry she cooked up in the kitchen made the people that came to her restaurant feel at home. With a restaurant with walls covered in African American Art, it is clear to see what her second love is. Chase serves on the board of New Orleans Museum of Fine Arts and has lobbied for more funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Another nickname Leah Chase has acquired during her lifetime is “The Woman behind Princess and the Frog.” The Disney film is more realistic than it seems.
When Disney filmmakers were looking for someone who they could base the film’s main character Princess Tiana off of they turned to Chase for their inspiration. The fairytale is about an African American woman who lives in New Orleans. Her dream has always been to open her own restaurant because her father did not get the chance to.
Later in the movie, the young girl kisses a frog prince in order to turn him into a human. Chase has written many cookbooks, The Dooky Chase Cookbook, And Still I Cook, and Leah Chase: Listen, I Say Like This, just to name a few. Along with being a renowned chef, Chase has received a wide range of award from the Outstanding Woman Award from the National Council of Negro Women, multiple awards from the NAACP to the Weiss Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews.