Remembering Leah Chase

Leah Chase and her husband, Edgar, at their restaurant in the 1980s. The Historic New Orleans Collection, gift of Harold F. Baquet and Cheron Brylski

Here is an excerpt from another profile of courage in The New York Times‘ series, “The Lives They LIved,” in this instance written by . To read the complete article as well as others, please click here.

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Leah Chase fed presidents and paupers alike and made her New Orleans restaurant into a kind of church.

She arrives every morning to the kitchen by 7:30, says a prayer for strength beneath Jesus on the cross and begins the gumbo. To watch her part a chicken alone there in the pale light, strong, slick hands cutting, pulling, chopping, is the moment in the movie when you see the hero’s superpower. Into the pot go the gizzards and necks and wings. In go the sausage, oysters, crabs, the ham, shrimp and dried sassafras. Her body seems to float there, but her hands move in double time, in a dance with the cutting knife.

Her kitchen is a church of its own, really — at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant on Orleans Avenue in the Treme neighborhood in the grand confluence, the polyglot, that is New Orleans. Here they live, waiting for the floodwaters and lights-out while the pot forever simmers with gumbo on the stove tended by the chef, this indomitable woman of faith and freakish hard work named Leah Chase.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

Michael Paterniti is a contributing writer and a GQ correspondent.

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