Leah Chase, a civil rights activist and famed New Orleans restaurateur dubbed the "Queen of Creole Cuisine," died on Saturday, her family announced Sunday. She was 96.
The award-winning chef started out as a server in the French Quarter, before marrying her husband, jazz musician Edgar "Dooky" Chase Jr., in 1946. Together, they revamped his father's sandwich shop, turning it into the legendary sit-down spot Dooky Chase's Restaurant. The establishment was known for showcasing work by black artists, and, at odds with the segregation laws of the time, seating black and white patrons together. In the restaurant, organizers held NAACP meetings and worked on black voter registration, CNN reports.
In a statement, Chase's family said her daily joy was "preparing meals to bring people together," and "she saw her role and that of Dooky Chase's Restaurant to serve as a vehicle for social change during a difficult time in our country's history." Chase fed everyone from Thurgood Marshall to Ray Charles to former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and was the inspiration for Tiana in Disney's The Princess and the Frog.