Sneak into the kitchen of Dooky Chase Restaurant (2301 Orleans Ave., 821-0535) on any given weekday and you'll probably see Leah Chase chopping vegetables or completing one of her classic Creole dishes. Later this month, you'll be able to see her doing the same on the walls of the New Orleans Museum of Art (1 Collin Diboll Circle, 658-4100; and there is a gala where the fruit of those labors will be on the plates.

  NOMA opens its Leah Chase: Paintings by Gustave Blache III exhibit on April 24, and the night before, the museum hosts a gala to preview the show and honor its subject, the indefatigable chef, restaurateur and culinary icon.

  Chase, 89, remains a constant presence in the dining room and kitchen of Dooky Chase. That's where artist Gustave Blache observed her for a series of 20 portraits to be featured at the exhibit. One work titled Cutting Squash was recently acquired by the National Portrait Gallery.

  "The images captured in the Chase series depict the less glamorous but essential aspects of the restaurant business," says Miranda Lash, NOMA's curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. "Wearing her signature pink cap, you see Leah cutting vegetables, pouring oysters, even washing dishes. The process of cooking is elevated to its rightful status, as a work of art itself."

  The April 23 gala features a preview of the exhibition and the inauguration of the Leah Chase Art Purchase Fund, which the museum will use to acquire work by African-American artists for its permanent collection.

  Chase is catering the gala, which begins at 6 p.m. at NOMA. Tickets start at $75. Visit for details.