New Orleans Mourns An Icon: Remembering Mrs. Leah Chase


Restauranteur Leah Chase. Cropped from White House photo by Joyce N. Boghosian

New Orleans chef and civil rights icon Leah Chase passed away on Saturday, June 1, according to a statement released by her family. She was 96.

Known affectionately throughout the city and across the country as the Queen of Creole Cuisine, Mrs. Chase was the executive chef and co-owner of the legendary Dooky Chase’s Restaurant. Through her tireless efforts, Leah Chase transformed her restaurant from a simple sandwich shop to a New Orleans icon where tourists, musicians, athletes, activists and even presidents came to enjoy classes creole fare.

Mrs. Chase was a proud civil rights activist whose unwavering support for inclusion and civil liberties was well-known throughout the country. At her restaurant, she served great leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Thurgood Marshall.

“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,” the family writes. “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.

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Across New Orleans, people are taking the time to share their own stories and statements.

We will add more memorials and personal anecdotes as we receive them. If you have one you’d like published, you can email them to jbentley@bigeasymagazine.com.

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