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Iconic New Orleans chef Leah Chase passed away on Saturday, according to her family. She was 96.
Dubbed the "Queen of Creole Cuisine," Chase spent more than 70 years building and maintaining a culinary brand as the executive chef and co-owner of the city's Dooky Chase's Restaurant. She was also known for being a catalyst in ending segregation in New Orleans.
"One of her most prized contributions was advocating for the Civil Rights Movement through feeding those on the front lines of the struggle for human dignity," Chase's family said in a statement announcing her death. "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's restaurant was used for black voter registration, NAACP meetings, and more. She also upheld the standards of New Orleans' French Quarter at her establishment while being one of the few places integration was accepted.
"Nobody bothered them once they were in here. The police never, ever bothered us here," Chase explained during a 2018 CNN interview. "So they would meet and they would plan to go out, do what they had to do, come back—all over a bowl of gumbo and some fried chicken."
Chase's contributions have been rewarded with countless medals and recognition. Her love for food and entrepreneurial mindset served as the muse for Princess Tiana from Disney's 2009 film, The Princess and the Frog. New Orleans' mayor LaTonya Cantrell took to Twitter to eulogize Chase.
"Leah Chase served presidents and celebrities, she served generations of locals and visitors, and she served her community," Cantrell tweeted. "She was a culture-bearer in the truest sense. We are poorer for her loss, and richer for having known and having loved her. She will be badly missed."