Opened in 1941 as a sandwich and lottery shop, Dooky Chase’s has been a part of New Orleans history for generations.
Edgar ‘Dooky’ Chase, Sr., the original owner, was an entrepreneur with a young son who was bursting onto the swing and jazz music scene. The restaurant was a meeting point for social and economic discussion for African-Americans during the civil rights movement, nestled in one of New Orleans most storied black neighborhoods. The restaurant has hosted some of the most famous people throughout American history, including Martin Luther King Jr.
In 1946, Edgar Jr. married Leah Chase. It was Leah’s vision to turn the shop into a fine dining restaurant that celebrates the cultural and regional Creole cuisine of New Orleans.
Today, Leah’s still loving every second of being in the kitchen. To her, cooking and sharing food is all about the people.
Leah is whipping up a few New Orleans classics in the kitchen, like her gumbo.
“Cajuns usually make a really dark gumbo,” says Leah. “Our’s is thinner and lighter.”
And don’t expect to nail down the ingredients. Leah’s philosophy on gumbo is a simple one.
“When you learn about people’s food, you learn about them. The Creoles of color in New Orleans have a lot of African influence in their cooking. In New Orleans, you get food like nowhere else in the world.”
“Gumbo is like going fishing,” she says. “What you get is what you get.”
Leah’s ability to connect food with people extends to her sentiments toward running a successful business.
“As long as you’re showing kindness, the dollars will come,” she says.
Dooky Chase’s is also home to one of the best Southern buffets in town, featuring their famous fried chicken. This chicken is super crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside. (It’s giving the folks down the road a run for their money.)
Dooky Chase’s also houses a large collection of African-American art and photos from distinguished visitors, including former President Obama. As the story goes, the former President made the faux pas of adding hot sauce to Leah’s gumbo. The restaurant proudly displays the moments before and after Leah scolded him — it was all in good fun.