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The Food World Mourns Death of New Orleans Icon Leah Chase

The queen of Creole cooking died at the age of 96

New Orleans icon Leah Chase on an episode of Bravo’s ‘Top Chef’
Photo by: David Moir/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images
Hillary Dixler Canavan is Eater's restaurant editor and the author of the publication's debut book, Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes From the Authority on Where to Eat and Why It Matters (Abrams, September 2023). Her work focuses on dining trends and the people changing the industry — and scouting the next hot restaurant you need to try on Eater's annual Best New Restaurant list.

New Orleans lost an icon with the passing of chef-restaurateur Leah Chase this weekend. As reported by the | Times-Picayune and the Advocate, Chase died on Saturday, June 1, at the age of 96.

In her decades at the helm of her restaurant, Dooky Chase’s, in Treme, Chase was known as the Queen of Creole cooking. The historic restaurant became a hub for the Civil Rights movement. She and her family stood in defiance of the law by allowing both black and white activists in the dining room to meet over dishes like her famous gumbo z’herbes. A statement from Chase’s family notes that “One of her most prized contributions was advocating for the Civil Rights Movement through feeding those on the front lines of the struggle for human dignity.”

Few chefs have ascended to the level of cultural recognition earned by Chase. She served presidents and musicians, inspired the Disney princess Tiana, was immortalized in Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” music video, and in 2016 earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from the James Beard Foundation.

Since news broke last night, tributes have been pouring in on social media.

Many in New Orleans — including the mayor — noted Chase’s prominence in and profound importance to the city.

Many mourned the passing of one the last remaining keepers of a specific culinary and social history. James Beard Award-winning writer and culinary historian Michael Twitty noted that “the last of a generation is gone” in a moving thread.

Other tributes from around the food world highlighted her activism, her journey, and her ability to inspire others.

Leah Chase, whose restaurant Dooky Chase’s helped change New Orleans, dies at 96 [The Advocate]
Leah Chase, New Otleans’ matriarch of Creole cuisine, dead at 96 [ | The Times-Picuyune]