Known today as a community staple for authentic Creole cuisine and historically as a meeting place for Civil Rights movement leaders, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant is now the set of a new series honoring its matriarch, the late Leah Chase, also known as “The Queen of Creole cuisine.”
“The Dooky Chase Kitchen: Leah’s Legacy” is a 26-part series following the next generation of Chases in the kitchen, while they share recipes and stories about the famous family restaurant.
The series features Edgar “Dook” Chase IV, Chase’s grandson, who runs the restaurant’s kitchen; Cleo Robinson, Chase’s niece, who first joined her in the kitchen in 1980; Zoe Chase, Chase’s great-granddaughter, who is the restaurant’s newest chef; and Eve Haydel, Chase’s granddaughter, who is responsible for the cocktail and drink recipes .
In addition to breaking down a tasty recipe, each episode will walk viewers through a peak moment in the restaurant’s past.
“On an episode about distinguished guests, the Chase chefs will share a recipe for grits and quail that Leah served at the restaurant in 2008 to President George W. Bush during a North American Leaders’ Summit,” said the press release from WYES.
“On another episode the restaurant’s significant place in the history of the Civil Rights Movement will be celebrated with preparation of Creole gumbo, a dish Leah served to Martin Luther King Jr. and other social activists when they held strategy sessions in the restaurant’s upstairs dining room in the 1960s.”
History of the restaurant
Established in 1941 at the corner of Orleans Avenue and North Miro Street, Dooky Chase’s was first a family-owned tavern that served po-boys and sold lottery tickets. It was run then by Emily and Edgar “Dooky” Chase Sr.
Years later when Leah married Chase Jr., the foundation for the restaurant was laid with menu changes and physical renovations. Dooky Chase’s restaurant was soon known around the country as one of the first African-American fine dining restaurants.
The restaurant was a popular choice for notable artists, athletes and politicians traveling through then-segregated New Orleans.
Civic leaders, black and white alike, would meet in the second-floor dining room to discuss plans and have a meal from Chase.
In May 2021, a historical marker of a silhouette holding a protest sign was placed outside of Dooky Chase’s by the Louisiana Office of Tourism. The marker is one stop on the Louisiana Civil Rights Trail, a collection of markers that detail the role Louisiana people, sites and events had in shaping American history in the 1950s and ’60s. It was designed by Ernest M. English and Benjamin Clay of the GMc+Co Strategic Communications team.
In June 2022, a historic placard was installed on Orleans Avenue to highlight the role the restaurant played in the civil rights movement and mark the start of the new Civil Rights Legacy Walk.
Chase continued to have an active role in the restaurant’s day-t-day operation by cooking in the kitchen and making rounds in the dining room, until her death June 1, 2019, at 96.
She is survived by her family members who are working to keep the Dooky Chase’s Restaurant legacy alive.
“The Dooky Chase Kitchen: Leah’s Legacy” is just one example of how they are sharing her story.
The series was written and produced for WYES-TV by Terri Landry and sponsored by The Melvin S. Cohen Foundation, Inc. It will premiere nationally in spring 2023.