Friday, June 19, 2009

Memories of Leah Chase, Creole Queen

At 16 years old, my high school best friend Cyrene invited me to New Orleans to visit her older sister in college, I was thrilled. When I came to New Orleans in 1992, I immediately fell in love. Eating beignets, jambalaya, drinking on virgin daiquiris and hearing New Orleans music wherever we went was a treat for two Midwestern girls from Chicago. Yet when Cyrene’s older sister took us to Dooky Chase’s restaurant, I literally lost it. We walked into her restaurant which was surrounded by an art collection that was good enough to exhibit in any major art museum. We toured the restaurant like we were in an art gallery. When it was time for us to be seated, the intoxicating smell of Creole spices from the kitchen floated us to our table where we devoured Leah Chase’s food made with love. Chase, walked over to us with a glowing grin and asked us if we were from New Orleans where we responded that we were from Chicago but Cyrene’s sister was in college in NOLA. We politely remembered our manners and answered with, “Yes Mam, No Mam,” until she gave us some quick advice and walked off to attend the kitchen. I always admired women like Leah Chase. She reminded me a lot of many women I know or read about but particularly one of my idols, the Cuban singer Celia Cruz(now deceased)who likewise created a community filled with love based on her artistic talent and jovial spirit. Leah Chase, a woman of poise who would freely praise or scold to no matter who it is. Chase is truly a New Orleans legend and anyone who ever met her and had the chance to eat her amazing food is forever touched by her beautiful human spirit. So now that I am older, meeting Leah Chase again was like that really good wedding cake frozen in the freezer for 1 year and brought out only to relive the sweet memories again. Likewise, planning for an exhibit in her honor, making sure that the gala event is a huge success, researching and speaking with her is a pleasure for all of us at SoFAB and we all look forward to honoring her on July 2, 2009 at our gala event. So come out New Orleans to celebrate the life and achievements of the Creole Queen, Leah Chase!