Creole Chef to Be Spotlighted in Penn College Colloquium

Published 10.14.1999


New Orleans is famous for Saints (in football season) and sinners (during Mardi Gras), but it perhaps is best known for the type of cuisine represented by an extraordinary visitor to Pennsylvania College of Technology this month.

Leah Chase, a master chef whose creative Creole dishes are the specialty of the house at her family-owned Dooky Chase's restaurant, will be featured in Conversations With a Pioneer, a colloquium at Penn College's Professional Development Center at 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 21.

Born in the 1920s into a poor African-American family, Chase has overcome obstacles related to poverty, race and gender to become one of America's most regarded restaurateurs.

As the pre-eminent chef in the Dooky Chase kitchen, she has established a reputation as one of the best purveyors of Creole cuisine in the nation. Her restaurant spawned The Dooky Chase Cookbook in 1990 and she was a visiting Culinary Professor at Nicholls State University in 1996, but her renown transcends her legendary kitchen.

Chase has distinguished herself as a civic leader through her dedicated involvement with numerous charities and organizations. In 1998, she received the Times Picayune Loving Cup, the highest honor bestowed upon a New Orleans resident.

"My dad never told us that things were limited for us because we were female," she says. "He always told us, 'Just work and pray and you can't go wrong,' The two you had to do together."

That philosophy helped her survive the Depression years, World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and the social turbulence of the '60s. Through it all, her love of food, her work and her civic spirit persevered. . The public is invited to join Chef Chase in a fascinating discussion of what it takes to overcome life's obstacles, and just what it means to be successful.

She will remain on the Penn College campus through Saturday, Oct. 23, when she will be among the friends of Chef John Folse, owner and executive chef at Lafitte's Landing in Donaldsonville, La., during his fourth visit to Le Jeune Chef restaurant.

Chase will prepare Duck and Andouille Gumbo as her part of the six-course Visiting Chefs meal, a sold-out annual benefit for Penn College's scholarship programs.