Leah Chase, New Orleans’ matriarch of Creole cuisine, who fed civil rights leaders, musicians and presidents in a career spanning seven decades, died Saturday (June 1) surrounded by family. She was 96. Mrs. Chase, who possessed a beatific smile and a perpetually calm demeanor, presided over the kitchen at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant until well into her 10th decade, turning out specialties such as lima beans and shrimp over rice, shrimp Clemenceau and fried chicken that was judged the best in the city in a poll by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. Every Holy Thursday, hundreds showed up to enjoy gallons of her gumbo z’herbes, a dark, thick concoction that contains the last meat to be eaten before Good Friday. In May 2016, Mrs. Chase received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the James Beard Foundation, which sponsors the country’s foremost food-related awards program for chefs, restaurateurs and writers. The foundation, which is named for a cookbook author and teacher who died in 1985, is, according to its website, designed to "celebrate, nurture and honor America’s diverse culinary heritage through programs that educate and inspire." Leah Chase, New Orleans’ matriarch of Creole cuisine, dead at 96 She lived through a lot. She is really interesting.