On Louisiana Eats! NOLA food icon Poppy Tooker takes us into Louisiana's wide open fields, deep waters, bustling markets, and busy kitchens. Poppy's people are carrying on the traditions of Louisiana's wholly local but universally celebrated food, from farm to table, and sometimes barroom! Poppy roams the State to find the folks whose inspiration and innovation are taking the abundant wealth of Louisiana's food culture into the future. Let's eat!
This week, we mark the passing of New Orleans icon, and our dear friend, Leah Chase, who died Saturday, June 1 at the age of 96. We spend the hour honoring Leah's talent and achievements and the legacy she leaves behind.
We begin with one of our favorite Louisiana Eats moments: a special day we spent with Leah in 2012, when then-Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s office kicked off Carnival season at Gallier Hall with king cake and a lovely surprise for Leah.
From there, we look back on Leah’s early life in Madisonville, Louisiana. Leah describes her earliest days growing up on a strawberry farm, and the lessons she learned that shaped the legend she would become. We continue with a piece from NOLA Life Stories, in which Leah recounts her first experiences working in a café in the French Quarter, as told to Mark Cave of the Historic New Orleans Collection.
Next, we arrive at a turning point in Leah’s life — the moment she met big band leader Edgar “Dooky” Chase, Jr. Following their marriage, Leah went to work at Dooky’s, her in-laws’ simple sandwich shop in the Treme. As she began to serve Creole classics like gumbo and Chicken Clemenceau on fine linen, Leah elevated the dining culture for everyone. Leah tells us about her famous Gumbo z'Herbes, a dish she served at her restaurant every Holy Thursday for over 60 years.
We also chronicle how Leah rebuilt Dooky Chase’s after Hurricane Katrina. Eleven years after the storm, Leah experienced two other monumental life events — the first was her 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award from the James Beard Foundation. Months later, Leah’s husband and partner Edgar “Dooky” Chase — the man who played a key role in her success — passed away at the age of 88. In this final segment, Leah reflects on their relationship and shares her thoughts on death and living a fulfilling life.
We celebrate the life of the undisputed Queen of Creole Cooking on this week's Louisiana Eats!
For more of all things Louisiana Eats, be sure to visit us at PoppyTooker.com.