Celebrity chef Leah Chase, often referred to as the Queen of Creole Cuisine, has died at age 96, her family announced late Saturday.
According to a family statement shared on Facebook, Chase, a civil rights icon who was co-owner and executive chef of New Orleans' famous Dooky Chase's Restaurant, died Saturday "surrounded by her family."
"She was a major supporter of cultural and visual arts and an unwavering advocate for civil liberties and full inclusion of all," the statement read. "She was a proud entrepreneur, a believer in the Spirit of New Orleans and the good will of all people, and an extraordinary woman of faith."
The post described Chase as "a strong and selfless matriarch" whose "daily joy was not simply cooking, but preparing meals to bring people together."
"One of her most prized contributions was advocating for the Civil Rights Movement through feeding those on the front lines of the struggle for human dignity," the statement continued. "She saw her role and that of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant to serve as a vehicle for social change during a difficult time in our country’s history. Throughout her tenure, Leah treasured all of her customers and was honored to have the privilege to meet and serve them."
Chase, who married her late husband, Edgar "Dooky" Chase Jr., in 1946, converted her husband's family's sandwich shop into New Orleans' "first white-tablecloth restaurant for black patrons," The Associated Press reported. The restaurant, named after her father-in-law, hosted black and white civil rights activists, including Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, during segregation and became a cultural institution, WWL-TV reported.
More recently, two presidents – Barack Obama and George W. Bush – ate there, according to the station.
Public figures, celebrities and colleagues flocked to social media to share their memories of Chase and offer condolences to her family.
"While we mourn her loss, we celebrate her remarkable life, and cherish the life lessons she taught us," the family statement concluded. "The Family will continue her legacy of 'Work, Pray, and Do for Others.'"
– The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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