The culinary world lost one of its legends last weekend when Leah Chase, the chef/proprietor of New Orleans’s famed Dooky Chases’s Restaurant, died at the age of 96. And now, the organizers of the National Food and Beverage Foundation have started a campaign to convince the City of New Orleans to turn Lee Circle, a busy thoroughfare near the French Quarter, into “Leah Chase’s Circle.” This move would potentially involve adding a statue of the chef to the podium where a likeness of Confederate General Robert E. Lee stood for over a century.
“A statue of Leah Chase would bring all New Orleanians together in honor of one of our greatest culture bearers,“ the organizers write. “Mrs. Chase has been a tireless champion for New Orleans’ food and culture and has made an enormous impact on not just New Orleans, but the United States through her tireless commitment to civil rights and her work to uplift our communities.” According to the Change.org petition, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum — an offshoot of the National Food and Beverage Foundation — would cover the cost and creation of the statue, as well as its installation. “This wonderful addition to our city will require no taxpayer funding,” the campaign notes. In 2015, the City of New Orleans voted to remove the sculpture of Lee along with three other Confederate monuments, and no other statue was added to the column after it was taken down in 2017.
During the first few hours of the campaign, more than 1,500 people have already signed the Leah Chase’s Circle petition, suggesting that the organizers should have no problem meeting their goal of 2,500 signatures this week. After that, the proposal will have to get approved by the city officials. If the immediate outpouring of support for this campaign is any indication, there’s clearly a lot of public interest in having a tribute to an African-American culinary icon replace a monument to the leader of the Confederate army.
Stay tuned for updates on the future of Leah Chase’s Circle as they become available.