Leah Chase, the matriarch and chef of the famed Dooky Chase Restaurant passed away Saturday, according to her family. She was 96 years old.
“The Chase family is heartbroken to share the news that our Mother, Grandmother, and Great Grandmother, Leah Chase, passed away surrounded by her family on June 1, 2019.” the family said in a statement released Saturday evening.
Nicknamed the “Queen of Creole Cooking,” Chase helmed the family-owned restaurant, which serves up local classics like gumbo, fried chicken and Po-Boys. The restaurant, a favorite of former President Barack Obama, has been a staple in New Orleans’s Treme community since 1941.
“At a time when there were no Black-owned banks in the region, Chase’s allowed workers to cash their checks,” ESSENCE reported in a profile of the restaurant. “When it became a sit-down restaurant and bar, it would still serve as one of the city’s Black social hubs. Able to freely deliberate politics, social injustice, and civil rights strategy, the restaurant hosted the discussions of local freedom fighters, and it served community many leaders from Martin Luther King, Jr. to Thurgood Marshall.”
But Chase was always one of the staple’s biggest attractions.
“Her daily joy was not simply cooking, but preparing meals to bring people together. 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. She saw her role and that of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant to serve as a vehicle for social change during a difficult time in our country’s history,” the statement said.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Chase left an unmatched legacy.
“She was a culture-bearer in the truest sense,” Cantrell tweeted. “We are poorer for her loss, and richer for having known and having loved her. She will be badly missed.”
Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced, and the family asked for donations to the Edgar L.“Dooky” Jr. and Leah Chase Family Foundation in lieu of flowers.
“While we mourn her loss, we celebrate her remarkable life, and cherish the life lessons she taught us,” the statement said. “The Family will continue her legacy of ‘Work, Pray, and Do for Others.'”
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