Chase’s restaurant was a popular staple in the Treme neighborhood––frequented by political figures from Martin Luther King Jr. to President Barack Obama. He ran the restaurant with his wife and life partner, Leah Chase, 93. The couple, who married in 1946, took over the restaurant after Chase’s father Dooky Sr. died.
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Leah is also a constant presence in the restaurant; as the lead chef, her dishes are heralded for their authentic Crescent City flavor. She told WDSU she hasn’t taken a day off since her husband’s death, opting to keep her spirits up by doing what they loved most––serving others.
“I could sit home and I could cry and that would do no good. I’ll come in this kitchen every day and the more people I see, the better it is for me,” she said.
Leah said their greatest regret was her husband’s unfulfilled dream of becoming a world-renowned musician. Chase’s jazz band was one of the first New Orleans bands to play progressive jazz music, according to Leah. As an avid lover of the art, several musical icons graced the restaurant’s stage, including Ray Charles, Quincy Jones and Nat King Cole, The Louisiana Weekly reports.
But Chase was also known as a staunch supporter of civil rights; he organized several voter registration drives and allowed community organizers to use his restaurant for meetings and gatherings.
President George W. Bush shares a moment with restaurant owner Leah Chase, center, and fellow dinner guests Dr. Norman Francis, president of Xavier University of Louisiana, left, and Reverend Fred Luter, right, during a dinner with Louisiana cultural and community leaders Tuesday evening, Aug. 28, 2007, at Dooky Chase’s restaurant in New Orleans. President Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush were visiting New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region on the second anniversay of Hurricane Katrina. White House photo by Shealah Craighead
On Monday, the Chase family gathered at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church along with a plethora of community members to pay their respects.
“He had my back all the time, so I’m going to miss him. But I’m going to carry on for him and my children. I want Dooky to be looking at me from heaven and I want him to be proud of me,” Leah said.