Data Staff Writers
World-renowned Restauranteur and Iconic Civil Rights Activist Leah Lang Chase, Owner and Executive Chef of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant died last Saturday surrounded by family members and friends, at the age of 96. The news of her death spurred a host of emotional messages and condolences across social media, from elected officials and celebrities paying tribute to her and reminiscing about her famous gumbo, to everyday citizens lamenting their enormous respect for her courage, generosity, wisdom and love for the community.
The list of uber-famous people she has cooked for and served throughout her career is staggering, but Chase’s cooking took on a life of its own as she helped change the trajectory of a nation in turmoil during the Civil Rights Movement as she served prominent leaders, activists and freedom fighters. “In my dining room, we changed the course of America over a bowl of gumbo and some fried chicken,” she was quoted as saying.
Former President Barack Obama, who enjoyed a seat at Chase’s table in 2008 tweeted, “What a life. American history has always been driven by visionaries like Leah Chase- and all the men and women who worked and ate at Dooky Chase’s over the years- folks who serve up progress one bowl of gumbo at a time.”
“Leah Chase was a legend, an icon and an inspiration,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “It is impossible to overstate what she meant to our City and to our community. At Dooky Chase’s Restaurant: she made Creole Cuisine the cultural force that it is today, she made a family-owned sandwich shop into one of the first African-American fine dining restaurants in the country, and she made history—with Dooky’s serving as a cradle and a hot spot for the Civil Rights Movement.
“Leah Chase served presidents and celebrities, she served generations of locals and visitors, and she served her community. She was a culture-bearer in the truest sense. We are poorer for her loss, and richer for having known and having loved her. She will be sadly missed. My sincere condolences, my prayers and my love go out to her family. The City of New Orleans will be there for them, in gratitude for all that Leah gave us. May she rest in God’s perfect peace.”
The National Urban League released the following statement via Twitter: “She united people through beloved #Creolecuisine and opened her doors to #DrKing and countless other movement leaders working to transform our country. In her own words, ‘We changed the course of #America in this restaurant over bowls of #gumbo.’ #LeahChase’s legacy won’t soon be forgotten nor taken for granted. May she rest in eternal peace.”
Journalist Lolis Eric Elie tweeted, “Who will call hot sausage #chaurice now that #leahchase is gone? Who but Leah Chase is responsible for the resurgence of #gumbozherbes?”
Chase’s family released the following statement regarding her passing: The Chase Family official statement regarding the death of Leyah (Leah) Lange Chase, Wife of the late Edgar L. “Dooky” Chase, Jr. and Owner and Chef of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant. “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. Leah Chase, lovingly referred to as the Queen of Creole Cuisine, was the Executive Chef and co-owner of the Historic and Legendary Dooky Chase’s Restaurant. She was a major supporter of cultural and visual arts and an unwavering advocate for civil liberties and full inclusion of all. She was a proud entrepreneur, a believer in the Spirit of New Orleans and the good will of all people, and an extraordinary woman of faith.
“Mrs. Chase was a strong and selfless matriarch. 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. Throughout her tenure, Leah treasured all of her customers and was honored to have the privilege to meet and serve them.
“While we mourn her loss, we celebrate her remarkable life, and cherish the life lessons she taught us. The Family will continue her legacy of “Work, Pray, and Do for Others.”
A public viewing will take place on Saturday, June 8th from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Xavier Convocation Center, 7910 Stroelitz Street. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Monday, June 10, at 12 p.m. at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church, 1923 St. Philip Street, New Orleans. Visitation will also be on Monday from 8:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at the same location. Seating inside of the church will be limited.
The Chase Family requests that in lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Edgar L. “Dooky” Jr. and Leah Chase Family Foundation – P.O. Box 791313 New Orleans, LA 70179.