|Birth Day:||January 6, 1923|
|Death Date:||Jun 1, 2019 (age 96)|
As per our current Database, Leah Chase died on Jun 1, 2019 (age 96).
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She was a waitress at the Colonial Restaurant and The Coffee Pot in New Orleans.
In 1946, she married jazz trumpeter and band leader Edgar "Dooky" Chase II. His parents owned a street corner stand in Treme, founded in 1941, that sold lottery tickets and homemade po-boy sandwiches. Chase began working in the kitchen at the restaurant during the 1950s, and over time, Leah and Dooky took over the stand and converted it into a sit-down establishment, Dooky Chase's Restaurant. She eventually updated the menu to reflect her own family's Creole recipes as well as recipes—such as Shrimp Clemenceau—otherwise available only in whites-only establishments from which she and her patrons were barred. In 2018, Food & Wine named the restaurant one of the 40 most important restaurants of the past 40 years.
Chase studied art in high school, but because museums were segregated in the Jim Crow South, she was 54 the first time she visited an art museum, with Celestine Cook. Cook was the first African-American to sit on the board of the New Orleans Museum of Art, which Chase also joined in 1972. Chase began catering gallery openings for early-career artists during the Civil Rights period, and started collecting African-American art after her husband gave her a Jacob Lawrence painting. She soon began to display dozens of paintings and sculptures by African-American artists like Elizabeth Catlett and John T. Biggers, as well as hire local musicians to play in her bar. In addition to serving on the board of the New Orleans Museum of Art, she was on the boards of the Arts Council of New Orleans, the Louisiana Children's Museum, the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, and the Greater New Orleans Foundation.
Dooky Chase's 6th Ward of New Orleans location was flooded by Hurricane Katrina, and Chase and her husband spent more than a year living in a FEMA trailer across the street from the restaurant. To save Chase's African-American art collection from damage, her grandson placed the art collection in storage. The New Orleans restaurant community got together on April 14, 2006 (Holy Thursday) to hold a benefit, charging $75 to $500 per person for a gumbo z'herbes, fried chicken, and bread pudding lunch at a posh French Quarter restaurant. The guests consumed 50 gallons of gumbo and raised $40,000 for the 82-year-old Mrs. Chase. While she worked to reopen the restaurant, Chase also joined Women of the Storm, a coalition of women from neighborhoods across the city who joined together to lobby Congress for funds to restore New Orleans and other communities after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Chase was one of the women associated with the group who flew to Washington D.C. to speak to Congress and the White House.
Blache's painting, Cutting Squash, from the exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art was acquired for its permanent collection by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in 2011. "We are always looking for portraits of nationally prominent figures," said Brandon Fortune (chief curator). "It is a very interesting image of a woman at work, doing a very simple task, cutting squash ... But in some ways it transcends the everyday and becomes something of national significance." Chase has two paintings owned by The National Museum of African American History and Culture branch of the Smithsonian from the Blache series, including Leah Red Coat Stirring (Sketch).
In the 2012 revival of Tennessee Williams's classic New Orleans play A Streetcar Named Desire, which had an all-African-American cast, a mention of the restaurant Galatoire's (which was segregated during the play's post-war 1940s time period) was changed to a mention of Dooky Chase's Restaurant, which was integrated. Leah Chase was also the inspiration for the main character Tiana in the 2009 Disney animated film The Princess and the Frog. In a 2017 episode of the Travel Channel's Man v. Food, host Casey Webb visited Dooky Chase to try their famed Creole gumbo.
In 2013, Chase and her husband Edgar "Dooky" Chase Jr. founded the Edgar "Dooky" Jr. and Leah Chase Family Foundation. According to their official website, The Edgar "Dooky" Jr. and Leah Chase Family Foundation was founded to "cultivate and support historically disenfranchised organizations by making significant contributions to education, creative and culinary arts, and social justice." Having spent her life advocating for civil rights, supporting local artist and musicians, and providing original creole cuisine this foundation was an extension of her passion. Through this foundation, the Chase family hosted several fundraising events to support children's educations such as music, art and history. Their foundation has been sponsored by many local businesses and organizations, such as Liberty Bank, Metro Disposal, Popeyes, Entergy New Orleans and many others.
After reopening the doors of Dooky Chase's, Leah Chase fed her creole cuisine to many important figures, including U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine, Leah Chase won many awards and achievements in her lifetime. She was awarded "Best Fried Chicken in New Orleans" by NOLA.com in 2014. She received the James Beard Lifetime Achievement award in 2016 for her lifetime's body of work, which had a positive and lasting impact on the way people ate, cooked, and thought about food in New Orleans. Many world renowned chefs, such as John Besh and Emeril Lagasse, honored Leah Chase and credited her with perfecting creole cuisine. Chase fed many celebrities, politicians and activists, such as Hank Aaron, Bill Cosby, Lena Horne, James Baldwin, and many other prominent figures in the African-American community. In "Early Morning Blues," Ray Charles sang, “I went to Dooky Chase to get me something to eat.”
Currently, Leah Chase is 98 years, 6 months and 23 days old. Leah Chase will celebrate 99th birthday on a Thursday 6th of January 2022.
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