Chef Leah Chase of Dooky Chase - Biography

New Orleans, LA

March 2012

Born in 1923 and one of 14 children, Leah Chase grew up in Madisonville, Louisiana, a small town on the less cosmopolitan side of Lake Pontchartrain. After grammar school, she moved in with family in New Orleans to continue her schooling at a Catholic high school, since Jim Crow laws blocked her from receiving further public education. Chase, like so many young cooks, originally fell into a job waiting tables and then fell in love with food. And after falling in love with Edgar “Dooky” Chase Jr, she signed on take up his family’s business at Dooky Chase, one of the few restaurants in New Orleans to serve the black community. When her children were old enough to attend school, Chase began to work at the restaurant three days a week. She started out as a hostess, but she was soon redecorating the restaurant and working as its chef. She eventually revamped the menu to reflect her Creole background. After Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of Dooky Chase’s Tremé location in 2005, the restaurant community got together to host a benefit in 82-year-old Chase’s honor. The guests raised $40,000, and Dooky Chase reopened in 2007 mostly for take-out food and special events. The restaurant now serves lunch four days a week and dinner one night a week. Chase is also a cooking show host, cookbook author, and board member at the New Orleans Museum of Art.