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Leah Chase, Creole Chef Who Fed Presidents and Freedom Riders, Dies at 96

Dooky Chase’s
Little League
Freedom Riders
the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
National Public Radio
New York Times
the New Orleans Museum of Art
the National Portrait Gallery
the National Museum of African American History and Culture
the National Endowment for the Arts

Kim SeversonLeah Chase
Martin Luther King Sr
James Baldwin
Sarah Vaughan
Nat King Cole
Barack Obama
George W. Bush
Stella Reese Chase
Princess Tiana
Jessica B. Harris
Charles Lange
Edgar Chase Jr.
Jim Crow
Lolis Eric Elie
Thurgood Marshall
Robert F. Kennedy
Ray Charles
Dooky Chase
George S. Patton
Tipper Gore’s
Carol Allen
Celestine Cook
Jacob Lawrence
Elizabeth Catlett
John T. Biggers
Gustave Blache III
Emily —
Edgar III
Leah Chase Kamata
John Folse

Roman Catholic
African Americans

Lake Pontchartrain

The Dooky Chase Cookbook

New Orleans
New Orleans’s

Hurricane Katrina
the French Quarter
World War II
Holy Thursday

Positivity     47.00%   
   Negativity   53.00%
The New York Times
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Bush crab soup and shrimp Clemenceau on the second anniversary of the storm that nearly closed her restaurant, Dooky Chase’s, for good.“In my dining room, we changed the course of America over a bowl of gumbo and some fried chicken,” she would often say.Mrs. Chase died on Saturday at her son’s home near her restaurant in New Orleans, her daughter Stella Reese Chase said. She slowly pushed her husband and his parents to expand the business, to make it more like the finer restaurants she had worked at in the French Quarter.In a city operating under the heavy cloud of Jim Crow laws, Dooky Chase’s became the only upscale restaurant where African Americans could gather.“In these desegregated times it’s hard to imagine what it meant for Leah Chase to try to create a fancy restaurant for black people,” said Lolis Eric Elie, an author and filmmaker whose father was a prominent New Orleans civil rights lawyer and whose mother was a well-regarded educator.“Even in the days when my parents were courting, black people had Little League championship teams, college graduations and date nights with special people,” Mr. Elie said. Kennedy even when phoned-in lunch orders were pouring in.“We were trying to be accepted without hurting anybody,” Mrs. Chase said in an interview with the National Public Radio program “The Splendid Table.” “In the ′60s, here come these young people — bam! It was considered by many to be Louisiana’s best collection of African-American art.A portrait of Mrs. Chase chopping squash in her kitchen by Gustave Blache III is in the National Portrait Gallery, and her chef’s jacket and other artifacts from her kitchen are on display in the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.She often said she would “be as mean as a rattlesnake” without art.“Art softens people up and warms them up to deal with each other in humane ways,” Mrs. Chase told a congressional committee in 1995 in an effort to save funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.In 2005, when New Orleans’s levees broke during Hurricane Katrina, floodwater filled the floor of the restaurant but didn’t touch the art, which a grandson was able to retrieve undamaged.For nearly 18 months, Mrs. Chase and her husband lived in a government trailer next to the restaurant while they struggled to repair it. The day after her daughter died, Mrs. Chase was scheduled to open the restaurant at 11 a.m. So she did.“I lost myself in the pots,” she wrote in “The Dooky Chase Cookbook.” “I had more tears in the gumbo pot than I had gumbo.”In addition to her daughter Stella, survivors include a son, Edgar III; another daughter, Leah Chase Kamata; 16 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren.Friends knew that Mrs. Chase’s health was failing in April, when she didn’t show up for her annual Holy Thursday lunch, for which she had long served gumbo z’herbes, a special dish that requires nine different kinds of greens.

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