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'Queen Of Creole,' Leah Chase, Dies At 96


It will be a long and loud second line to celebrate the life of Leah Chase, the famed New Orleans chef who died over the weekend.


She was known as the queen of Creole cuisine.

LATOYA CANTRELL: The gumbo - oh, my goodness. That's the - Lord, the gumbo - even the green gumbo she would make. And oh...

MARTIN: That's New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell remembering Chase, who used to say, quote, "in my dining room, we changed the course of America over a bowl of gumbo and some fried chicken." Our own Debbie Elliott spoke with Chase back in 2015 about the restaurant called Dooky Chase's.


LEAH CHASE: It was a special place, and I wanted it to be. See; blacks had nothing. They had nothing at all - no nice places. But I saw, on the other side of town, those nice restaurants. I said, why we can't have that?

INSKEEP: She made her restaurant a meeting place for leaders of the civil rights movement. Here's Mayor Cantrell again.

CANTRELL: She played a major role in creating that safe space so that we can ensure that the civil rights that the struggles, that we were able to move forward through them and through adversity. And having the courage, she created a safe space for those conversations that could happen. And they were used as a vehicle, really, for social change.

INSKEEP: Chase fed the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King and Nat King Cole, but her restaurant almost closed for good after Hurricane Katrina.


CHASE: Nothing you could do but ride it out and take the whipping and come back again.

MARTIN: Come back again, she did. People celebrated when she reopened in 2007. Mayor Cantrell.

CANTRELL: Not only did she feed the bodies of New Orleanians, she really fed our souls.

INSKEEP: Leah Chase died on Saturday at 96.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.