This month’s Family Meal is based on recipes by Leah Chase, the Queen of Creole cuisine. She and her family turned a neighborhood sandwich shop into one of the most important restaurants in the country. … In the country! You may have heard her of her. Maybe you even know her restaurant, Dooky Chase. But, this episode will be a deep dive into the woman and her food. Let’s get into it.
Welcome to Family Meal on the wine party channel, where we’re all about memory making meals with a splash of wine. These recipes are from Leah Chase’s 2011 cookbook, And Still I Cook. She wrote this book over 50 years after she became executive chef at Dooky Chase.
But, this is just her second cookbook in all those years. Her first, the Dooky Chase cookbook was released in 1990. So, there’s 30 years worth of additional knowledge in this book. And, the recipes cover most any occasion you’d encounter, from sandwiches and breakfast to dessert.
Chase is synonymous with New Orleans. She grew up just outside of NOLA, in Madisonville. Madisonville is a small town in St. Tammany Parish. The town was segregated when Chase was a child. And this parish still struggles with racism today.
Leah Chase was six when the great depression started. To survive, the family grew their own vegetables and made their own clothes. This connection to the land and to making your own stayed with her and is part of what drew her to food.
She moved to New Orleans for high school. Chase’s family was Catholic. But, there wasn’t a Catholic high school for Black children in her area. So, she went to high school at St. Mary’s Academy, one of the oldest Black Catholic High Schools in the country.
After high school, she worked as a racehorse bookie and as a boxer’s manager. But, her favorite job was working at the restaurants. She worked at two in town: The Colonial and The Coffee Pot.
After she married her husband, Edgar “Dooky” Chase II, they took over the Chase family sandwich stand. This is the business that would become the Dooky Chase we know today. Over time, they added other Creole dishes and fancier dishes you would only find at white-run restaurants.
Dooky Chase became the place where black entertainers, activists, artists, and politicians could meet and eat. The restaurant wasn’t just an eatery. It was a meeting hall, an art gallery, and a community center.
For over 60 years, Leah Chase supported the community with world-class food and space where folks could gather. She is one of the most celebrated chefs in America. So, her food is definitely worth trying out. Add these wine pairings amps the meal up another notch.