Cooking with Obama's Kitchen Princess; Incredible Story of 87-Year-Old Civil Rights Chef Leah Chase Has Inspired a Hit Disney Movie

Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), July 6, 2010 | Go to article overview

Cooking with Obama's Kitchen Princess; Incredible Story of 87-Year-Old Civil Rights Chef Leah Chase Has Inspired a Hit Disney Movie


Byline: BRIAN McIVER

IT'S every little girl's dream to grow up and become a princess... but it doesn't usually take 60 years of waiting tables and slaving in a kitchen to make it happen.

However New Orleans chef Leah Chase, the inspiration for the latest Disney princess, says it was worth every minute of the wait to see her life story turned into a movie.

She is one of the most important cooks in America, having fed key members of the black civil rights movement in the 60s, Motown stars such as The Jackson Five in the 60s and 70s and US presidents spanning more than 40 years.

She also starred in Jamie Oliver's American Road Trip series but her biggest claim to fame is the recent Disney animated hit, The Princess And The Frog.

The studio based the lead character of Princess Tiana - a black kitchen hand who becomes a princess via a spell as a frog - on Leah after encountering her during research for the film's location, New Orleans.

The movie has become one of the most successful animated hits of recent years, so to mark its recent release on DVD, Disney invited the Daily Record to meet the real Princess behind the animation.

Most Scots probably won't have heard of 87-year-old Leah but in America she is a bigger culinary institution than Delia Smith, Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver put together.

She is Barack Obama's favourite southern chef and has also cooked for John F Kennedy and George W Bush, while she counts Oprah Winfrey among her celebrity fans.

Her pride and joy, Dooky Chase's Restaurant, is a local institution in New Orleans. It was forced to close after Hurricane Katrina ripped through the city five years ago.

It was shut for two years but the entire community - who have eaten at her side since World War II - gathered round to help fundraise for the rebuild and get the restaurant back to its former glory.

And it's the high regard she is held in by people across the States that made her the ideal inspiration for Princess Tiana.

Leah is flattered by the animated immortality and delighted to be a role model for young women. She said: "I was fascinated that someone would think anything in my life would be worth telling a story about.

"For me, the really wonderful thing was that they thought it was time to show a little black girl as a Princess - somebody who worked herself up and that could be a real inspiration to little black children to show them they could be anybody they wanted to be."

The first black Disney princess is a huge milestone for film fans and it's one that Leah could hardly have dreamed of growing up in Louisiana in the 20s.

Whites-only signs, laws and traditions were prevalent throughout the Deep South but Leah managed to overcome the racism and chauvinism of the time to succeed.

"I knew as soon as I stepped into a kitchen it was what I wanted to do. My first job was as a waitress in the 40s and normally they wouldn't have given that kind of job to a woman. Because there was a war on, they had to, and I stayed in the cooking business ever since," she recalled. She started cooking when she was five or six in her poverty stricken home just outside New Orleans, and got her start in restaurants in her 20s.

In 1945, she married husband Dooky, took over the kitchen in his family restaurant and a legend was born.

In the early days, it was music legends such was Count Basie, Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole who would line up to enjoy her cuisine.

As her reputation grew, the restaurant became a favourite in New Orleans and a hub of the black community. Much of the black civil rights movement was planned over her fried chicken and gumbo (a fantastic meaty soup full of creole spices).

"The civil rights men would come in for meetings and lunch," she said. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Cooking with Obama's Kitchen Princess; Incredible Story of 87-Year-Old Civil Rights Chef Leah Chase Has Inspired a Hit Disney Movie
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.