A legacy that extends far beyond food runs through the dining rooms of Dooky Chase Restaurant (2301 Orleans Ave., 504-821-0600), a landmark of the civil rights struggle, a trove of African-American art and a daily example of the power of community.
As the Chase family prepares to celebrate the 90th birthday of their matriarch, legendary chef Leah Chase, it is planning a pair of public events to honor her and raise funds for a new foundation to ensure her legacy endures.
"My mother loves to celebrate her birthday," says Stella Reese, the chef's daughter and right hand in running the restaurant. "With the size of our large family, the celebration usually spans at least a week and is full of dinners and parties. The grandchildren actually felt that inviting the community she loves and serves so passionately was the best way to honor her 90 years."
Events begin with a Jan. 4 luncheon at the restaurant, with seatings at 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. and feature a menu of Chase's classic Creole dishes. Leah and husband Edgar "Dooky" Chase Jr. will speak at the event. Lunch costs $40 per person, reservations are required by Dec. 28 and can be made at the restaurant or by calling (504) 821-0600.
On Jan. 5, the festivities move to the Hyatt Regency New Orleans (601 Loyola Ave., 504-561-1234; www.neworleans.hyatt.com) for a gala, which includes a cocktail reception and four-course meal. Each course will be prepared by a different chef, though their names had not been announced by press time. Individual tickets are $250, and tables are available for $2,500, with a Dec. 28 deadline to purchase. Register online at www.dookyandleahchasefoundation.org.
Proceeds from the weekend will seed the Edgar "Dooky" Jr. and Leah Chase Family Foundation, which the family says they're creating to support causes including social justice, inclusion, cuisine and the arts.