Leah Chase, Queen of Creole Cuisine and Rights Activist, Dies at 96

Leah Chase. Image: Blake Nelson Boyd

New Orleans-based chef Leah Chase was one of the most prominent experts on Creole cooking in the world. At her upscale restaurant, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, she served Louisiana Creole dishes: barbecued ribs, stuffed crab, gumbo.

Leah Chase passed away last week at the age of 96.

Dooky Chase’s Restaurant was famous for much more than just its incredible food. It was also famous for being a meeting place in the 1960s for African-Americans to discuss how to end racism in America. During the Civil Rights Movement, Blacks were banned from many of the more expensive restaurants–only white people could eat in them.

“In a city operating under the heavy cloud of Jim Crow laws, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant became the only upscale restaurant where African-Americans could gather,” according to a New York Times obituary of Leah Chase.

One of her most prized contributions was advocating for the Civil Rights Movement through feeding those on the front lines of the struggle for human dignity. 

-Dooky Chase’s Restaurant website, Chase Family official statement

People like Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights activists met in secret at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in the 1960s to discuss ways to put an end to the terrible racial discrimination that was prevalent in the segregated southern United States.

In later years, many famous people came to Dooky Chase’s Restaurant for its world-famous cuisine. People like President Barack Obama, President George W. Bush, Ray Charles and many other politicians and celebrities.

Dooky Chase’s Restaurant was also the fine-dining restaurant where African-American people celebrated special occasions like anniversaries and birthdays, when they were barred from being able to eat in other restaurants that only served white people.

Princess Tiana, who was turned into a frog in the animated Disney movie, “The Princess and the Frog,” was inspired by Leah Chase.

Leah Chase and her husband, jazz trumpeter Edgar “Dooky” Chase (who died in 2016), had four children, 16 grandchildren and 27 great-grandchildren.

Related Links:

There is much more to know about Leah Chase and her Dooky Chase’s Restaurant. This New York Times article has more information about her and her brave civil rights work:

This article in Oprah magazine talks about Leah Chase as the inspiration for Disney’s Princess Tiana:

There is more information about Leah Chase on the website for Dooky Chase’s Restaurant: and the Chase Family’s official statement:

By Kathleen Tilly

Writing/Discussion Prompt:
Leah Chase and her famous restaurant served more than delicious food. In your own words, explain the significance of Leah Chase, her restaurant and the type of food she cooked and served.

Reading Prompt: Making Inferences
The website for her restaurant, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, includes the following description: “One of her most prized contributions was advocating for the Civil Rights Movement through feeding those on the front lines of the struggle for human dignity.” In your own words, explain what this quotation means and describe the impact that Leah Chase had.

Develop and explain interpretations of increasingly complex or difficult texts using stated and implied ideas from the texts to support their interpretations (OME, Reading: 1.5).

Language Feature: Adjectives
Leah Chase was known for her Creole food. If you don’t know what kind of food this is, look it up online or in a recipe book.

Think of your favourite food and brainstorm as many adjectives as you can to describe it.