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National Restaurant Association - Leah Chase: A lifetime of service

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Restaurant Careers

Leah Chase: A lifetime of service

Leah Chase

Leah Chase, chef-owner of the legendary Dooky Chase restaurant in New Orleans, has served meals to three presidents and is a 2012 winner of the National Restaurant Association’s Faces of Diversity Award.

She wasn’t always the queen of Creole cooking. The eldest of 11 siblings, Chase was born in Madisonville, a poor community in Louisiana. She moved to New Orleans at 16 to live with her aunt and attend school. She learned the restaurant business from the ground up, waitressing in the French Quarter at age 18 and poking her nose into the kitchen.

In 1945, Chase married musician Edgar “Dooky” Chase II, whose family owned the Dooky Chase restaurant. She began working for the business in the 1950s and eventually converted the menu to reflect her Creole roots.

"After 66 years, I’m still in the kitchen and I am still happy."

“I want young people to know how important this industry is,” she says. “When young people complain to me about a customer I tell them, ‘It’s your job to make them happy. Maybe they are tired, but it is your job to change that.’ ”

Chase knows the Crescent City is all about food. “To really know about the restaurant industry, you have to live in New Orleans,” she said. “The hospitality industry is our business. That is all we have.”

“After 66 years, I’m still in the kitchen and I am still happy.”

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