Dooky Chase’s legacy in Creole cuisine may only be eclipsed by its role in the civil rights movement.
Dooky Chase’s Restaurant was opened in 1941 as a bar and po-boy shop by Emily and Edgar “Dooky” Chase Sr. In 1946, their son, Edgar Chase Jr. married Leah Lange Chase. Chase, who grew up in Madisonville, had a bigger vision for the po-boy shop, and over time turned it into a sit-down restaurant featuring the Creole cooking of her youth.
During the 1960s, Dooky Chase’s became a safe haven for civil rights.
National figures including Andrew Young, Revius Ortique, Thurgood Marshall, Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King, Jr., and local civil rights leaders including Oretha Castle Haley, A.P. Tureaud, Ernest “Dutch” Morial met frequently in Dooky Chase’s upstairs dining room to talk about the movement. The restaurant hosted strategy discussions for the Freedom Riders and black voter registration drives.
Leah Chase’s legacy has grown through the years as she mastered Creole dishes like gumbo and shrimp Clemenceau. John Besh and Emeril Lagasse have both said that Chase has perfected Creole cuisine.
Dooky Chase’s has a gained a national following, with celebrities Ray Charles, Hank Aaron and presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, among those who have eaten at the restaurant.
It was that following that helped Dooky Chase’s reopen after Hurricane Katrina, though it took two years to rebuild the restaurant.
The restaurant is also well known Leah Chase’s collection of art by African-American artists which adorn the restaurant’s walls.
Dooky Chase Jr. died in 2016. Ninety-four-year old Leah Chase still works in the restaurant’s kitchen.