As Eater Nola established a few weeks ago, Leah Chase—at 93 years old— is having the best year ever. The restaurateur, chef and culinary legend behind 75-year-old New Orleans institution and seminal Civil Rights Movement gathering place Dooky Chase's Restaurant, has just been named the recipient of James Beard Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award 2016.
In a press release, the James Beard Foundation reiterates the importance of Chase among America's most influential culinary leaders:
In a town deeply divided by segregation, Dooky Chase's Restaurant, which is still open today, was one of the only public places in New Orleans where mixed race groups could meet to discuss strategy for the local Civil Rights Movement. The restaurant was the meeting ground for black voter registration campaign organizers, the NAACP, political activists, and countless others, and Leah Chase cooked for them all. Chase's original dishes would help pioneer the Creole food movement, and her recipes for dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, and fried chicken have gone on to become kitchen staples. Chase is also a patron of the arts, and her collection — displayed on the walls of her restaurant — was at one time considered New Orleans's best collection of African-American art. As a writer of two cookbooks and winner of countless food and humanitarian awards, Chase was inducted into the James Beard Foundation's Who's Who of Food & Beverage in America in 2010.