New Orleans' "Queen of Creole Cuisine" Leah Chase will receive the James Beard Foundation's 2016 Lifetime Achievement award.
The foundation's Jan. 28 announcement said Chase "pioneered Creole cooking" at her iconic 5th Ward restaurant Dooky Chase and also praised Chase's contributions to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, when she opened her restaurant to organizers and civil rights leaders, acting as a safehaven where blacks and whites could come together while the rest of the city's restaurants remained segregated. For that work, she was named "New Orleanian of the Year" by Gambit last month.
Chase and her husband, Edgar "Dooky" Chase Jr., took over his parent's restaurant in the late 1940s, transforming the building on Orleans Avenue from a sandwich shop that sold lottery tickets to the dining destination it is today, revered for its Creole cooking and displays of art by renowned African-American artists such as Elizabeth Catlett. In 2010, Chase was inducted into the James Beard Foundation's Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America.
"I am overwhelmed to receive such a prestigious award," Chase said in the announcement. "I never dreamt of receiving such an award for doing what I love to do: cook and serve others."
Chase will receive her medallion at the James Beard Awards ceremony on May 2 in Chicago. — HELEN FREUND