Goodbye to a Culinary Legend at a Landmark New Orleans Restaurant

Five days before Christmas 2018, Leah Chase grasped my hands between her warm, papery palms.

Her long fingers, steady and strong at then 95 years of age, one missing a tip, gripped mine for minutes. A beatific, genuine smile lit her face as we entered her kitchen at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in the Treme area of New Orleans. That smile never left her face.

What a gift that meeting was.

Chase died June 1 at 96. She leaves behind an awesome, seven-decade legacy. And it doesn’t only include her iconic, phenomenal restaurant and her 2016 James Beard lifetime achievement award. She fed and supported civil rights leaders and fledgling artists and presidents. She was remarkable in many, many ways.

No doubt, she is a sparkling facet of the fabulous gemstone that is New Orleans.

We never have to discuss whether we want to go to New Orleans. We always want to go to New Orleans. Beyond the music and the architecture and the history, the city’s greatest assets are its people – and its food. They’re both spicy, colorful,  memorable – our favorites in maybe the whole world.

We eat at the most expensive, landmark New Orleans restaurants and at what look like dives. We eat all day every day. We have enjoyed the gamut, from Dickie Brennan’s iconic steak house, to Galatoire’s, Mother’s, Tujague’s, and the crazy good muffuletta at The Central Grocery.

We have never had anything that wasn’t well worth the trip – Ms. Chase’s Creole cooking especially, at the landmark Dooky Chase restaurant.

When we met Leah Chase, she sat in a wheelchair at a small table in her kitchen, a large mug of beer two-thirds empty and handwritten planning notes before her.

We began to stumble over telling her how honored we were to meet her, congratulating her on her numerous accolades and accomplishments, raving about her cooking. We’d just had her delicious gumbo, fried chicken, shrimp Clemenceau and peach cobbler.

She graciously shushed us, and got right to what was on her mind. She didn’t like how men were being unfairly maligned so much these days, she said.

“You have to lift up your man,” she told me. “Looks like you got a good one there.”

Well, she was obviously also a very smart woman.

And how did we get the privilege of meeting her? I asked our waitress if we could.

One of my mantras is, “It never hurts to ask.” It’s how we’ve met others like Chef Luke Dale-Roberts at Cape Town, South Africa’s outstanding The Test Kitchen, named one of the 50 best restaurants in the world. He was curious about whether we’d tried a new place in New York yet. We hadn’t, but we added it to the list.

I ask many, many times every time we travel, and I have to say I can’t think of a time it hasn’t been met at least in a positive way.

Never underestimate the capacity of human kindness, and certainly never miss a chance to eat at Dooky Chase’s, now being run by Ms. Chase’s children and grandchildren.

32 Replies to “Goodbye to a Culinary Legend at a Landmark New Orleans Restaurant”

  1. An impressive share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a little analysis on this. And he in fact bought me breakfast because I found it for him.. smile. So let me reword that: Thnx for the treat! But yeah Thnkx for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. If possible, as you become expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more details? It is highly helpful for me. Big thumb up for this blog post!

  2. I’ve been absent for a while, but now I remember why I used to love this blog. Thanks , I’ll try and check back more frequently. How frequently you update your web site?

  3. You need to take part in a contest for one of the
    most useful sites on the net. I will recommend this blog!

  4. Thanks for the marvelous posting! I quite enjoyed reading it, you will be a great author. I will make certain to bookmark your blog and will come back very soon. I want to encourage yourself to continue your great posts, have a nice afternoon!|

  5. Have you ever thought about adding a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is valuable and all. But just imagine if you added some great graphics or video clips to give your posts more, “pop”! Your content is excellent but with pics and video clips, this blog could undeniably be one of the most beneficial in its niche. Excellent blog!|

  6. I like this site very much, Its a really nice place to read and incur info . “The love of nature is consolation against failure.” by Berthe Morisot.

  7. I’m really impressed together with your writing talents
    as smartly as with the layout to your blog. Is that this a paid subject or did you modify it yourself?

    Anyway stay up the excellent quality writing, it is uncommon to look a great blog like this one these days..

  8. Hi! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could get a captcha plugin for my comment form? I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having trouble finding one? Thanks a lot!|

  9. Having read this I believed it was very informative. I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this information together. I once again find myself spending a lot of time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worth it!|

  10. Fine way of telling, and pleasant post to get information concerning my
    presentation topic, which i am going to convey in school.

  11. Good day very cool website!! Man .. Excellent .. Superb .. I will bookmark your web site and take the feeds also? I am happy to find numerous helpful information here in the put up, we need work out more strategies on this regard, thanks for sharing. . . . . .|

  12. Simply wish to say your article is as amazing.
    The clarity on your submit is simply great and that i
    could think you are a professional on this subject. Fine with your permission allow me to grasp your RSS feed
    to keep up to date with impending post. Thanks 1,
    000,000 and please carry on the rewarding work.

  13. I’m not sure where you’re getting your information, but good topic. I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more. Thanks for magnificent information I was looking for this information for my mission.|

  14. Wow, this article is good, my younger sister is analyzing
    these kinds of things, therefore I am going to tell her.

Comments are closed.


Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)