Dooky Chase’s Restaurant
In recognition of her contributions to Southern food culture, legendary Creole chef and restaurateur Leah Chase has been named the recipient of the James Beard Lifetime Achievement for 2016.
Together with her husband Edgar “Dooky” Chase Jr., Leah Chase transformed his parents’ restaurant, Dooky Chase’s, from a simple sandwich shop into a sit-down restaurant that welcomed both black and white guests during an era when her native New Orleans was still heavily segregated.
The restaurant, which celebrates Creole cuisine — the result of French, African, German, Spanish, and American Indian influences on Southern food — not only welcomed mixed race groups, but also provided a meeting place where activists for the Civil Rights Movement could talk strategy and register black voters. The restaurant is still open today.
In an interview with the blog Animated Views, the directors of Disney’s Princess and the Frog said that Chase inspired the character of Tiana, a hardworking waitress who dreams of opening her own restaurant.
“I am overwhelmed to receive such a prestigious award,” Chase said. “I never dreamt of receiving such an award for doing what I love to do: cook and serve others.”
Chase, alongside this year’s recipient of the Humanitarian of the Year award, Father Gregory Boyle, S.J., will be honored at this year’s James Beard Foundation Awards on Monday, May 2, 2016 at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Boyle, a Jesuit priest, is the founder of Homeboy Industries, a gang intervention and rehab program that funds its work through a bakery, diner, and a catering service.