New Orlean’s Leah Chase

To All the Ships At Sea –

A bit of sad news to start out a Monday morning is that Leah Chase passed away yesterday.

© DiMaggio/Kalish

Both JoAnne and I met Leah Chase in New Orleans approximately 20 years ago. She agreed to open up the restaurant and kitchen for us so we could do a series of portraits of her in her renowned Restaurant Dooky Chase which was legendary and loved by many. If you were in town you had to go there and so many famous people did. The restaurant was known for serving presidents, as well as freedom riders. Martin Luther king, James Baldwin, Sarah Vaughan, Nat King Cole, Barrack Obama and George W. Bush all have eaten there. In a city operating under Jim Crow laws Dooky Chase became the only upscale restaurant where African Americans could gather.

Leah was totally dedicated to the restaurant and the community which she was very much a part of. She was considered a central cultural figure in the politics of New Orleans and the national struggle for civil rights. She was also a major promoter of art. During our conversation I mentioned to her that I had just done a cover story on Syvia’s restaurant in Harlem for American Way Magazine and on the owner Sylvia Woods. The two of them were sisters of a kind. Both trend setters and entrepreneurs in the food/restaurant business and in society. One in Harlem and one in New Orleans. Both women will be missed as they played a vital role in bringing people together.

© DiMaggio/Kalish
© DiMaggio/Kalish