For 67 years, Edgar “Dooky” Jr. & Leah Chase have been catalysts for social change and voices for progress for the People, City, and State they love. The foundation serves as a conduit to continue their efforts and support of others that embody the same passion and values.
Mr. & Mrs. Chase have been actively involved in their community for decades to support causes that are most important to them. Mrs. Chase modestly supported their church, schools and civic organizations’ through fundraising efforts by humbly baking hundreds of Lemon Meringue Pies. She also provided visionary leadership as President of the Women’s Auxiliary of Flint Goodridge Hospital and served as Chair of one of the earlier Ebony Fashion Fair Fashion Shows. A fundraiser to sustain the operational mission of Flint Goodridge Hospital, the city’s main healthcare facility for African Americans during the era of racial segregation.
Mr. Chase was a trumpeter for voter registration and bravely encouraged so many to register to vote. Dooky Chase Restaurant went on to provide a safe place for individuals of all ethnic communities to meet and discuss strategies for the Civil Rights Movement. Mr. & Mrs. Chase were forerunners that vigorously worked to open doors for African American Artists and Entertainers. Mr. Chase, as a legendary musician and Leader of the Dooky Chase Orchestra, was the first African American to co-promote a musical concert that was held in the Municipal Auditorium. Billed as “The Greatest Show of 1949” a line-up that included Duke Ellington and his full orchestra. This historical event was enjoyed by a racially mixed audience during the era of segregation.
Mr. & Mrs. Chase are patrons of black art and helped to create opportunities for African American Artists to showcase their talents. Their collection — displayed on the walls of the restaurant — was at one time considered New Orleans’ best collection of African American Art. Mrs. Chase currently serves on the board of the New Orleans Museum of Fine Arts and has even testified before Congress to lobby for greater funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. They are true ambassador for the Cultural Arts and have empowered and inspired artists to live their dreams.
Edgar Lawrence “Dooky” Chase Jr.Edgar Lawrence “Dooky” Chase Jr. was born on March 23, 1928, in New Orleans. The second child of Edgar Lawrence “Dooky” and Emily Tennette Chase, Sr. The Chase family was reared in strong faith with an innovative entrepreneurial drive and passion for music. Dooky, Jr. at a very early aged began to cultivate his love for music by singing and playing along with his mother as she played the piano, an uncle as he played the violin and guitar and whimsically with his father, Dooky Sr. as he whistled masterful tunes.
Dooky Jr’s parents were generous people who thrived off the strong sense of community, culture and family traditions that ran through the 5th, 6th and 7th Ward Neighborhoods of New Orleans, our beloved Historic Faubourg Treme?. Dooky Sr. a lottery vendor along with his wife, Emily, was able to put some money aside, sixty dollars, to open their Sandwich Shop in 1939 were they sold lottery tickets, po’boy sandwiches and other dishes that were local favorites. Emily who acquired her culinary skills from her father, Emile Tennette, a creole chef and owner of the first black creole restaurant in New Orleans, Tennette & Montegut, located on North Claiborne Avenue from 1933 to 1935. In 1941, Dooky Chase Restaurant opened its doors at the present location on 2301 Orleans Avenue. The Chases in a Louisiana Weekly article stated “this place is dedicated to the fun-loving people of our great city who are desirous of enjoying good food and drinks where there is always good order.”
Dooky Jr. and his sister Doris worked closely with their parents and assisted with the operations of the family business. Dooky Jr. delivered sandwiches throughout the neighborhood and priding himself on building his own personal relationships with the community. Remaining passionate about becoming a jazz musician, Dooky Jr. continued to foster his trumpeting skills that he began while in the Joseph Craig Elementary School Band and began to fashion his musical skills while playing in the Booker T Washington High School Band. He would in time establish the Dooky Chase Orchestra, furthering his family’s relationships in the community and their contributions to dining and entertainment.
The Dooky Chase Orchestra, that also included Dooky Jr.’s sister Doris Chase as vocalist, performed throughout the city and the southeast region during the 1940s. Dooky Jr. known for his keen band management skills became the Musicians Union’s treasurer and was able to raise the pay scale to support musician’s abilities to support their families.
During one of his performances in 1945, at a Mardi Gras Ball that was held at a Labor Union Hall, Dooky Jr. and Leah Lange met and in 1946 the pair would marry. Leah would later join him in operating the restaurant when their four children, Emily, Stella, Edgar “Dooky” III, and Leah were all of school age.
The Dooky Chase Orchestra had its last performance in 1949, as the big band era was coming to an end. Dooky Jr. still had a strong desire to stay connected to the entertainment industry, became an entertainment promoter from which he developed a life long relationship with Ray Charles and Qunicy Jones. The restaurant would naturally serve as host to several entertainers including Duke Ellington, Lena Horne, Count Basie, Sarah Vaughn, Nat King Cole, and countless others over time.
Dooky Jr. took control of the business along with his mother following the passing of his father in 1957. Dooky Sr. was a people’s person, a parade marcher who helped to fashion the second line umbrella, and a gambler who was loved by his friends and followers. His funeral was noted to have one of the largest funeral processions of that time. Dooky Jr., his wife Leah and mother Emily worked tireless together operating the restaurant around the clock as the restaurant warmly served costumers into the early morning hours of the following day. Emily Tennette Chase was a gracious hostess until her passing in 1995.
Dooky Jr. played a vital role in the Civil Rights movement as he, along with others canvased various neighborhoods across the community registering households to vote. He also spoke out on radio encouraging every individual to register to vote, jeopardizing the safety family business. He would continue his efforts as an active member of the NAACP. Dooky Chase Restaurant went on to provide a safe place for individuals of all ethnic communities to meet and discuss strategies for the Civil Rights Movement. Iconic Civil Rights Leaders such as Oretha Castle Haley, A.P. Tureaud, Ernest “Dutch” Morial, Rev. Andrew Young, Revius Ortique, Thurgood Marshall, Dr. Ralph Abernathy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. all gathered to have pivotal discussions over a bowl of gumbo in the safety of the walls of the Upstairs Dining Room.
Dooky Jr. continued his community involvement as he served as Vice President of the New Orleans Tourist Commission in 1978 – 1983 under the direction of Ed McNeil, was a board member of the Jazz and Heritage Festival during its formative years, served as a member of the committee for the 1984 World Fair and his promotion of the over all inclusive spirit of music and entertainment, art and dining across the City of New Orleans.
Leah ChaseKnown as the “Queen of Creole Cuisine,” Leah Chase has fed Quincy Jones, Jesse Jackson, Duke Ellington, Thurgood Marshall, James Baldwin, Ray Charles, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and countless others as Executive Chef of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant — one of the best-known and most culturally significant restaurants in New Orleans. Leah Chase has more recently served as the inspiration for Princess Tiana in Disney's Princess and the Frog.
Born on January 6, 1923 in New Orleans, Chase was one of 14 children. She was raised in the small town of Madisonville, LA. There were no high schools for black children, so after sixth grade, Chase moved to New Orleans to live with an aunt. After completing high school, Chase had a colorful work history including managing two amateur boxers and becoming the first woman to mark the racehorse board for a local bookie. Her favorite job, though, was waiting tables in the French Quarter. It was here that she developed her love for food and feeding others.
In 1946, she married local musician Edgar “Dooky” Chase Jr., whose father had opened a street corner stand selling lottery tickets and his wife’s homemade po’boy sandwiches. Eventually, Leah and Dooky Jr. took over the business, which by then had become a sit-down restaurant and a favorite local gathering place.
In a town deeply divided by segregation, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant was one of the only public places in New Orleans where mixed race groups could meet to discuss strategy for the local Civil Rights Movement. Although such gatherings were illegal through most of the 1960s, Dooky Chase’s was so popular; it would have caused a public uproar if local law enforcement had interrupted the meetings. Black voter registration campaign organizers, the NAACP, backdoor political meetings and countless others often found a home at Dooky Chase’s, and Leah cooked for them all.
Chase is also a patron of black art and her collection — displayed on the walls of her restaurant — was at one time considered New Orleans’ best collection of African American art. To this day, she served on the board of the New Orleans Museum of Fine Arts and has even testified before Congress to lobby for greater funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. She has participated in countless political campaigns and has used her culinary talents and celebrity to raise money for a myriad of charities and services. Her cookbooks, including The Dooky Chase Cookbook, And Still I Cook, and Leah Chase: Listen, I Say Like This, are popular and have received great praise among her most famous colleagues.
Chase has received many awards, including multiple awards from the NAACP, the New Orleans Times-Picayune 1997 Loving Cup Award, the Weiss Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and the Outstanding Woman Award from the National Council of Negro Women. Chase was inducted into the James Beard Foundation's Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America in 2010. She was honored with a lifetime achievement award from the Southern Foodways Alliance in 2000. Chase received honorary degrees from Tulane University, Dillard University, Our Lady of Holy Cross College, Madonna College, Loyola University New Orleans, and Johnson & Wales University. The Southern Food and Beverage Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana named a permanent gallery in Chase's honor in 2009. She also serves on many boards, including the Arts Council of New Orleans, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Urban League. She is member of the Women of The Storm and the International Women’s Forum. She has four children, sixteen grandchildren and twenty-six great- grandchildren.
Many are attracted to her warmth and mastery of culinary arts, that to this day still excite the minds of those she serves. Ray Charles sang about her, and National and International Presidents have sought her out, but in all her ability to excite the palates of Leaders she has remained steadfast in her ministry to all.