Her Food Was Just As Iconic As Her Activism

July 2, 2019

Chef Leah Chase was known by many in New Orleans as the “Queen of Creole cuisine.” Her restaurant, Dooky Chase, has been the hot spot to dine for presidents, such as Barack Obama and George W. Bush Jr. 

But during the 1960s, Dooky Chase was the hot spot for radical change. 

The conception of Dooky Chase restaurant came from Chase’s desire to give Black people in her city access to fine dining at the height of Jim Crow. She wanted Black New Orleanians to experience a luxury they had been denied because of their race.

Dooky Chase attracted Freedom Riders and hosted an array of NAACP meetings. Defying segregation laws, it was the gathering space for Black and white civil rights leaders - now legends - to secretly strategize over Chase’s delicious food.

Prominent actors and musicians of the time also frequented Dooky Chase. Being a cultural monument, Ray Charles even changed lyrics in “Early in the Morning” to recognize this revolutionary restaurant.

When the Treme neighborhood where her restaurant is located fell prey to economic adversity in the ‘80s, Chase refused to leave her community. She stayed rooted and renovated.

It was her love and dedication to Black people, human rights, and good food that made Leah Chase a Civil Rights icon and legend. We honor her and uplift the work she did for our freedom.

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