- Dooky Chase was founded by Emily and Dooky Chase, and their daughter in law, award-winning chef Leah Chase, took over with her husband in 1945.
- The Chase family has served Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Duke Ellington, Quincy Jones, and more.
- Dooky’s has been an integral meeting space for music, entertainment, African American art, and even the civil rights movement. It was one of the few public places in segregated New Orleans where black and white diners could come together to eat.
- Leah Chase passed away in June 2019, but her family is continuing Dooky Chase’s delicious legacy. Chase’s grandchildren have started a foundation in their late grandmother and grandfather’s name.
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Following is a transcript of the video.
Alana Yzola: On a quiet residential block in New Orleans stands one of the most historic Creole restaurants in the city, Dooky Chase.
Customer: This is a Creole icon, in terms of food. If you want to say that you have truly had a taste of New Orleans, Dooky Chase is the place.
Alana: From classic gumbo to unique seafood stews, this 78-year-old spot has helped put New Orleans cuisine and Southern culture on the map.
Stella Chase-Reese: Dooky Chase’s restaurant has history behind it. History which we are very, very proud of.
Alana: This is Stella Chase-Reese, daughter of Dooky Chase Jr. and award-winning chef Leah Chase.
Stella: Our business was started by African American family. My mother and my father expanded the restaurant and made it fine dining with very Creole-oriented dishes.
Alana: Leah’s story and legacy for amazing Creole food got Disney’s attention, and she served as the inspiration behind the 2009 animated film “The Princess and the Frog.”
Clip: This is the best gumbo I’ve ever tasted.
Alana: Dooky Chase has always celebrated diversity. In fact, it’s New Orleans’ only African American establishment featured in the Negro Motorist Green Book that’s still in operation today. Throughout the years, it’s hosted countless figures, from presidents to actors to musicians. Leah died in June 2019, but her family is continuing Dooky Chase’s delicious legacy.
Creole cuisine started in Louisiana in the early to mid 1800s, when the territory was still occupied by France. However, these dishes also combine influences from a multitude of cultures, including Spanish, German, West African, Caribbean, and Choctaw Native American. The dishes are known for their rich, thick sauces and bold flavors. At Dooky Chase’s, stuffed shrimp is one of their best sellers. Each freshly caught shrimp is stuffed with a generous serving of crab meat. The crab is seasoned with a special blend of spices. They’re floured twice in white and yellow flour, then fried to golden brown.
Customer: You can tell the difference in fresh shrimp, and I love Dooky’s because you get it fresh.
Alana: Another best seller? Leah Chase’s Shrimp Clemenceau.
Stella: She came up with that dish because she said: “We can’t always do fried food. Everybody doesn’t always eat fried food.”
Alana: The chef sautés shrimp in wine, butter, and garlic, then adds in green peas, mushrooms, Irish diced potatoes, and a sliced strawberry. It’s a very hearty dish, but they brighten it up with this sliced strawberry, which, I’m intrigued to see how that’ll all go together, but it smells amazing. So, the shrimp itself is very buttery and garlicky, but you’re still getting that bite from the herbs and spices that they use, and I didn’t know if the strawberry would actually work with this dish, but it really does, it brightens it up a bit.
And it wouldn’t be a Creole restaurant without gumbo. The gumbo is packed with fresh Louisiana shrimp, crab, chicken, beef, filé, and smoked andouille sausage.
I’m about to dig into this gumbo. Oh, that chicken. The chicken is so moist, oh, my goodness. It honestly just melts in your mouth. Even though it’s in a stew, each part of the gumbo is well seasoned.
Stella: Chef Leah Chase, she would tell everybody, “If you ate my Creole gumbo you can solve any problem.” When President Obama came, what do you think he had? A bowl of gumbo.
Alana: Dooky Chase has long been a pillar of great food as well as agents of great change, and they don’t plan on leaving this history in the past.
Stella: We want our parents’ and our family legacy to continue. Her grandchildren started a foundation in my mother, Leah Chase, and Edgar Chase’s name. One of our largest projects for 2019 is to open our room upstairs where all the civil rights people met, where our community came together and strategized and tried to figure out ways in which we can live together in one community.
Alana: Ridiculously flavorful. I can’t speak, I just want to eat. I really just want to eat this, hold on.