Still cookin’

Leah Chase, the Queen of Creole Cuisine, celebrates 93rd birthday

Leah Chase in New Orleans on Tuesday, August 15, 2006.(Eugenia Uhl/The New York Times)

Dooky Chase’s restaurant has been a New Orleans staple since 1941, when it opened in the historic African-American community of Treme. Its success is credited to Leah Chase, the restaurant’s long-time chef and director, who has been called the Queen of Creole Cuisine and whose career served as part of the inspiration for Disney’s The Princess and the Frog.

Chase, who celebrates her 93rd birthday this week, told the AP that the decades passed easily because she likes what she’s doing. “It’s fun for me,” she said, “I hope to get it done really well some day.” She’d worked in white restaurants before opening her own place and asked herself, “Why we can’t have a nice space?”

Customers still meet with Chase, who travels around her restaurant by walker to make sure that the dishes are to their liking. Famous patrons include Ernest “Dutch” Morial, New Orlean’s first African-American mayor, and lawyers from the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education ruling, who would eat lunch at Dooky Chase’s. “All I had to do was feed them. If they were in jail in New Orleans I would send food to jail. They didn’t eat that prison food,” Chase said.

Read the full story at the AP.

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