Leah Chase’ 90th birthday is Sunday, January 6th.
For 66-years, the ‘Queen of Creole Cuisine’ has made the rounds at Dooky Chase; serving up meals and memories customers won’t soon forget.
Now the City of New Orleans is reflecting on the life and times of the lady behind the restaurant known across the country.
“She’s such an icon in New Orleans; it’s worth celebrating and worth other people knowing about it,” customer Charlie Salvaggio said.
WGNO News Reporter Darian Trotter sat with Leah Chase as she prepared to celebrate the milestone of turning 90.
“Feels pretty good really,” Chase said. “Other than a few arthritis pains you know, feels good; it’s good to be living.”
And after 9 decades Chase has lived through a lot, including The Great Depression, The Jim Crow Era, and The Civil Rights Movement.
Through it all she says she’s had a good life.
“I think this day and age, young people don’t realize this is good living,” Chase said.
In 1946 Ms. Chase became something of a food pioneer; and today she still does most of the cooking at the family-owned restaurant.
“It keeps me living man,” Chase explained. “When I can get in there and cook, do what I have to do that’s what keeps me going. If I stop that I wouldn’t have anything to do.”
She loves to cook; and customers love her cooking.
“It’s fantastic, it really is,” Salvaggio said. “The red beans and rice are out of this world, the homemade hot sausage is fantastic, so it’s really lived up to its reputation.”
“Food is delicious, it’s charming,” customer Cindy Hipshar said. “I love the artwork and I got the pleasure of meeting the owner herself.”
“Oh well she’s just beautiful,” customer Paige Martin said.
Leah Chase is considered a local and national treasure, a living legend.
She has bestselling cook books. She’s cooked for notable celebrities and dignitaries, and she was even featured in a Disney animation.
“I’m proud, I’m proud, because like I said you have to know from where I come,” Chase said. “Very poor, picking strawberries and I look back and say oh my from picking strawberries to the Smithsonian Institute that’s a long way.”
Trotter asked, “Out of all of your dishes, which is your favorite?
“Gumbo, people like gumbo and they love fried chicken, chicken up to here,” Chase replied. “I love to do the gumbo, they like the gumbo, they like fried chicken.”
“I hope I can go five, six more years maybe, maybe I won’t be able to do all the work that I do now,” Chase said. “But I would like to be involved in some kind of way in food service.”
The Leah Chase 90th birthday celebration is set for Saturday January 5th at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, located on Loyola.
The reception starts at 5pm, followed by a Birthday Gala.
For more information, visit: http://dookyandleahchasefoundation.org./events.html