Today I had lunch at Dooky Chase Restaurant in New Orleans, where Leah Chase, the “Queen of Creole Cooking” still humbly reigns. This 90-year-old culinary icon cooks, writes books, and appears on TV. She also has too many awards and honors to list. Mrs. Chase’s husband Edgar “Dooky” II was there too, and, from behind the bar, made everyone he met feel like family. (Dooky’s father, the first Edgar/Dooky, started the restaurant in 1941).
Dooky Chase is located in Treme, a faubourg (sort of like a suburb) that, thanks to television, is now a household name. But before the cameras arrived, Treme was celebrated for being America’s oldest African American neighborhood. Aside from that distinction, the area was first to allow free people of color to buy land, with some records of Black ownership going back as far back as the 1700s.
Unfortunately, Treme fell victim to high water during Hurricane Katrina. But thanks to a lot of helping hands, the formerly flooded Dooky Chase is now spic-n-span and looking better than ever.
Mrs. Chase sent me off with an autographed cookbook, a few recipes for an upcoming newspaper column, and a desire to buy some of the fantastic art that hangs on the restaurant’s walls. I also left with a better understanding of why this place is always packed — the food is excellent and authentic Creole, the staff is professional and friendly, and the ambiance screams “you’re home.”