Leah Chase

For the past 53 years, Leah Chase has been the Executive Chef of Dooky Chase Restaurant – a New Orleans Creole landmark. Leah has cooked countless servings of jambalaya, Creole file’ gumbo and shrimp stew and seasoned her specialties with some of the finest ingredients, including Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. The oldest of 14 children, Leah Lange Chase, from Madisonville, Louisiana has not forgotten her roots, love for life or Creole cooking from generations past. A cookbook author, Leah has appeared in cooking shows with nationally recognized chefs, including Julia Child, Graham Kerr and John Folse. She ships her world famous gumbo globally to anyone from Quincy Jones to Sidney Poitier.

Since the opening of Dooky Chase Restaurant, Leah Chase has seen both history and art evolved into something beautiful–a purpose in her life. When African Americans could not get into many of the city’s restaurants in the 50s and early 60s, Leah Chase cooked for the civil rights workers. She even brought meals to struggling artists and
catered their openings before they became famous.

Leah has received many culinary awards, including the coveted Times Picayune “1997 Loving Cup Award” for public service. She has been awarded a series of honors from the NAACP, the Weiss Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Torch of Liberty Award from the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, the University of New Orleans’ Entrepreneurship Award and the Outstanding Woman Award from the National Council of Negro Women. And, Leah Chase was pictured among 75 women, including Oprah Winfrey, Lena Horne and Marian Anderson in the traveling exhibit for “I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America.” With her love for the arts, she traveled to Washington to fight for the survival of the National Endowment for the Arts. For Leah, the arts are “an investment in the education of the neighborhood. Kids need to see something beautiful and breathtaking in order to aspire to higher things and value living more.”

Leah has served on many organizations’ boards, including the Arts Council of New Orleans, the Children’s Museum, the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, the Greater New Orleans Foundation and the New Orleans Museum of Art, where she is an honorary life trustee. Chef Chase is married to acclaimed musician Edgar “Dooky” Chase and has four children, 16 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Leah Chase’s expertness in Creole cuisine is held in such high esteem that she was honored and featured in the Culture Expressions Gallery of the newly opened Smithsonian Institute of National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., along with chefs Edna Lewis, Patrick Clark, Joe Randall and Hercules, George Washington’s enslaved chef.

An Interview with Chef Leah Chase