During my three years in New Orleans I ate at Dooky Chase's every chance I got, which wasn't often but you get the point. It was like entering a portal to another food universe. The color of the walls, the art work, the aromas, the amazing staff, the white cloth napkins, and the food my divine the food. Nothing could have prepared me for the food at Dooky Chase's. Unlike Commander's Palace (which always left me gassy) or Parkway (which always left me looking like I ran into a gravy truck) or Mosca's (which took four days to sweat out the garlic) when I left Dooky Chase's I felt like I was on top of the world and ready for anything (it was also a great bicycle destination too).
Do you remember the movie Tucker with Jeff Bridges (pre-Dude movie)? Do you remember the one scene when he fixes nearly raw roast beef during his investor luncheon speech? It was a great move on his part, rather than focus on their lunch they had to focus on the speech (because the sandwich was terrible). Which brings me to my ultra experience at Dooky Chase's.
One day in 2011, after Mitch Landrieu was sworn in as mayor, somehow I received an invitation to join community leaders at Dooky Chase's for meeting with Department of Justice officials concerning the New Orleans Police Department. Myself and two other faith leaders drove over to the restaurant for brunch on a weekday. The room was full of powerful African-American leaders, myself and two other white clergymen. The room had an energy level I had never experienced and this was before the suits arrived! Then the suits came in: Mitch Landrieu's staff followed by men and women from the Department of Justice, ending with Tom Perez (now the head of the Democratic National Convention). The suits were present to tell us that the DOJ would be taking over the New Orleans Police Department, but here is where my memory of the event is fuzzy (I even went back to my notes and they aren't very clear either).
Remember the Tucker movie scene? Now imagine the inverse of that scene. Leah Chase, for the event, prepared brunch for us. Before our eyes was a buffet to die for. I heard one community leader as he lifted the lid nearly shout, "Good God. Tomato-Eggs Creole. Thank you Jesus!" In my notes all I find are descriptions of the eggs, the softness of the butter, the thickness of the coffee, the sweetness of the jam, and the deliciousness of the bacon. It was the greatest brunch ever in my life, the greatest meal I had in New Orleans, and to this day, eight years later I sometimes wake up from a dream where I am sitting at Dooky Chase's with President Obama, discussing Reinhold Neibuhr, over brunch.
The city and Mayor Landrieu received terrible news, but all I can remember was the meal; that is how good of a chef Leah Chase was!
Requiescat in pace Leah Chase.
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