American culture: chef Leah Chase

Monday, June 3, 2019

Food brings people together. We mark occasions like birthdays and holidays with special dishes and meals meant to be shared. Food can unify people in other ways too. A remarkable example of that is in the life of Leah Chase, the legendary queen of Creole cuisine. 

Leah Chase, who passed away on June 2, 2019 at age 96, was a Creole chef and promoter of civil rights. She used her Creole restaurant, Dookie Chase, and her cooking talents to create the first fine dining restaurant for black customers in New Orleans. She broke segregation laws by seating blacks and whites in the same dining room and she fed the main players in the civil rights movement as well as tourists, musicians, athletes, and presidents.  

Creole (the food) is a blend of the various cultures of Louisiana (primarily the city of New Orleans), which includes French, Italian, Spanish, African, German, Caribbean, Native American, and Portuguese. Creole dishes have names that are hard to forget (gumbo, jambalaya, dirty rice, for example) and I’m happy to give them all a try. 

Leah Chase believed in the power of food to change a day, a city, and make people feel good. 

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