A new TV series featuring the life, family, and food of the Queen of Creole Cuisine, Louisiana's own Leah Chase, will premiere April 29 on PBS.
“The Dooky Chase Kitchen: Leah’s Legacy,” from executive producer Jim Moriarty, was first announced last year and was previewed with a launch party earlier this month at the WYES headquarters.
Shot on location at the family’s Dooky Chase Restaurant in the New Orleans’ Tremé district, the nation’s oldest Black neighborhood, the 26 episodes will trace the history of the 82-year-old eatery and its iconic menu. Under the auspices of Chase and her husband Edgar “Dooky” Chase II, the establishment served as a hub for the popularization of Creole-style food nationwide.
The show will feature Edgar “Dook” Chase IV—the grandson of Leah and Dooky—as well as their granddaughter Eve Marie Haydel, niece Cleo Robinson, great-granddaughter Zoe Chase, and other relatives. Granddaughter Leah Chase Kamata will narrate.
“My grandmother’s motto that she lived by was ‘pray, work and do for others.’ That was a seed planted into us and what we continue to live by,” said Dook Chase IV.
Among her various accolades during her life, Leah Chase was awarded the James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016, one of the highest culinary honors in America. Her portrait is also on display in the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., in honor of her contributions to American cuisine.
Known throughout their lives as Black Catholic activists, Leah and Dooky were members of nearby St. Peter Claver Catholic Church and allowed their restaurant to be used in its early decades as a meeting site for organizers in the Civil Rights Movement. Its guests included fellow Black Catholic A. P. Tureaud Sr., the attorney behind early school segregation lawsuits, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the 1961 Freedom Riders.
Two years after Leah Chase’s death in 2019, the restaurant was added to the Louisiana Civil Rights Trail. This year marks the 100th anniversary of her birth.
In the new series, the Chase family will put new spins on classic Dooky Chase dishes, including those served to dignitaries during their visits to the restaurant, such as King and former President George W. Bush. The chefs will also introduce new dishes reflecting the development of the cuisine in the 21st century.
“Leah’s Legacy” is at the second major production highlighting Chase's enduring impact, following the 2017 documentary “Leah Chase: The Queen of Creole Cuisine.” (The main character in the 2009 Disney animated film “The Princess and the Frog” was also inspired in part by Chase.)
Accompanying the new series is the “The Dooky Chase Cookbook,” originally released in 2010 and which will be updated with the show's new recipes. It will be available for preorder soon, according to the WYES website.
Episodes in the series will air on Saturdays at 10am CT and again on Sundays at 11:30am, and will be available for streaming in the WYES and PBS mobile apps.
The show will be distributed nationally by American Public Television; viewers outside of the WYES broadcast area can contact their local public TV station for airdates and streaming options. Listings are also available online.
Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger and a seminarian with the Josephites.