Petition Seeks to Rename New Orleans’ Lee Circle After Beloved Chef Leah Chase
By Danielle Dorsey
Plans to rename New Orleans’ Lee Circle Chase have been underway since the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee was removed in May 2017.
Lee Circle is a popular meeting spot during the Mardi Gras season. Residents, as well as local lawmakers, are eager to see it reimagined into a space where all feel welcome.
A new idea that’s gaining steam is to rename Lee Circle after famed restaurateur Leah Chase, who passed away on June 1 in Madisonville, Louisiana. After marrying Dooky Chase Jr. in 1946, Leah Chase helped transform the family’s bar and sandwich shop into a pantheon for Creole cuisine and Black culture.
Already a popular meeting spot for Civil Rights leaders and local entertainers, Chase elevated Dooky Chase’s Restaurant into one of the first African American fine dining restaurants in the country complete with an art gallery that highlighted Black artists in New Orleans.
The restaurant took a two-year hiatus to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina but came back bigger and better, serving as an emblem of New Orleans’ resilience and strength.
A Change.org petition was started by the National Food and Beverage Foundation to rename Lee Circle to Leah Chase’s Circle and erect a statue of the New Orleans culinary icon has collected almost 13,000 signatures in just one month’s time.
The petition states, “Mrs. Chase has been a tireless champion for New Orleans’ food and culture and has made an enormous impact on not just New Orleans, but the United States through her tireless commitment to civil rights and her work to uplift our communities. Mrs. Chase represents the best of New Orleans. Honoring Leah Chase with a statue would be a well deserved honor in the spirit of the Crescent City and its proud residents.”
According to the petition, the Southern Food and Beverage Museum has volunteered to cover the cost of the creation and installation of a statue of Leah Chase, meaning that it will require no taxpayer funding. After the petition meets its goal, the proposal will head to New Orleans City Council for further consideration.