Family Meal: New Orleans

Leah Chase: The Creole queen of New Orleans

Text by Carly Fisher, video by Alice Xue Yu, Robert Sevilla and Joseph Coleman, CNNUpdated 4th September 2018
(CNN) — If anyone knows the power of food to change communities, it's Leah Chase.
Her longstanding Dooky Chase's Restaurant is widely known as the heart of New Orleans, an institution that served as a center point for social justice during the civil rights movement and a pillar of the arts, rightfully earning her the title of "Queen of Creole Cuisine."
Born and raised in New Orleans during the tense segregation of the Jim Crow era, Chase found her calling while working as a server in the French Quarter.
CNN's Family Meal documentary traces the stories of four chefs -- Leah Chase, Emeril Lagasse, Donald Link and Nina Compton -- in the extraordinary city of New Orleans.
After marrying local jazz musician Edgar "Dooky" Chase Jr. in 1946, the couple took over his father's bustling sandwich shop in the predominantly black neighborhood of Treme, transforming it into an elegant sit-down Creole restaurant and African American art gallery -- something virtually unheard of during a time of rare black-owned businesses.
The restaurant weathered the 1960s, becoming one of the only public places acceptable for races to mix while strategizing the civil rights movement, including black voter registration, NAACP meetings and other political gatherings.
To this day, political officials, celebrities and people who just love to travel continue to roll through the doors. Chase has cooked for everyone from Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to novelist James Baldwin, composer Quincy Jones and legendary musician Ray Charles.
And the Queen continues to earn accolades, including recognition from the James Beard Foundation, NAACP and Southern Foodways Alliance. There's a permanent gallery named after her at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans.