It’s 3:30 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon and the dining room at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant is mostly empty, save for three lingering customers talking around a small table. 

One holds out his hand to compliment Chef Cleo Robinson, a Dooky Chase sous chef.

Edgar “Dook” Chase oversees the kitchen at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant and is featured in the new cooking show, “The Dooky Chase Kitchen: Leah’s Legacy.” Credit: Laura Combel

“The gumbo was delicious,” he tells her. 

“The Creole Burger was amazing,” his tablemate says.

Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in Treme has been a community staple since 1941 and grew into a national treasure as Chef Leah Chase served her delicious Creole cuisine to worldwide leaders, entertainers and newsmakers. Chase and her husband, Edgar “Dooky” Chase Jr., opened their doors to freedom riders and civil rights leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Thurgood Marshall, during the Civil Rights Movement, and allowed integrated groups to strategize in the restaurant’s upstairs dining room. 

“Dooky” Chase died in 2016 at the age of 88. Leah Chase died in 2019 at the age of 96, remaining active at the restaurant to the very end. 

“I would describe her as phenomenal, very resilient, very caring,” said Robinson, a niece who has worked at the restaurant for 43 years. 

Robinson said it was a pleasure to work with her aunt, “to see her fight, her tenacity to keep this restaurant afloat, keep the community going, and to give it all she got. Never once would you hear her say, ‘I’m tired. I just can’t do this anymore.’” 

Robinson, 62, is one of four Chase family members featured in a new cooking show,  

The Dooky Chase Kitchen: Leah’s Legacy.” It will premiere Saturday (April 29) at 10 a.m., on WYES. In addition to Robinson, the show will feature Dooky Chase executive chef Edgar “Dook” Chase IV, Chef Zoe Chase and Eve Marie Haydel, Dooky Chase bar manager.

Chef Cleo Robinson has worked at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant for 43 years. She is featured in the new WYES cooking show, “The Dooky Chase Kitchen: Leah’s Legacy.” Credit: Nigell Moses/Verite

Dook Chase recently talked to journalist Michelle Miller of CBS Mornings about the next generation of Chases and how they have expanded the family business.  

“We all have degrees in so many different fields, but we all find our way back home and home is the restaurant,” he told Miller.

Over 26 episodes, viewers get to see the Chase family — Dook, Zoe and Robinson — make some of the classic dishes that made Leah Chase the “Queen of Creole cuisine.” The recipes may seem daunting, but the chefs lead the audience in easy-to-follow, step-by-step directions during the cooking demonstrations. 

Zoe, at 23, is one of the youngest Chases who is cooking these days. During the pandemic she made her way into the kitchen and decided it was her calling. Chef Zoe is now part of the family business.

Zoe said she never got the opportunity to cook alongside her grandmother, who died when Zoe was 19, but she hopes the new cooking show will highlight her grandmother’s life and achievements, as well as demonstrate how the new generation is continuing her grandmother’s legacy.

Chef Zoe Chase, 23, is featured in the new cooking show, “The Dooky Chase Kitchen: Leah’s Legacy.” Credit: Nigell Moses/Verite

“I hope people learn the delicious recipes we’re showing them, how much love we put into the food,” Zoe said. “I hope we continue to do more great things and expand because, I think that’s what grandmother really wanted, to expand the restaurant.”

The cooking show is an expansion of the Dooky Chase brand, but also a show rooted in family.

It was something Leah Chase instilled in her brood — family first. Her motto was: “pray, work hard and do for others.” 

Haydel has the adage as her screensaver. She was working a corporate job in Atlanta and came home when the pandemic hit. Haydel found her way behind the bar, following in her grandfather’s footsteps. She is now bar manager at Dooky Chase. 

You’ll see Haydel whip up a few creative cocktails during the cooking show.

“You’ll watch the show and see how much love and understanding goes into the food and those pots,” Haydel said. “I was like, I have to match that same level of love and care and intent behind what I’m serving.” 

Eve Marie Haydel, the bar manager at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, is featured in the family’s new cooking show preparing creative cocktails. Credit: Nigell Moses/Verite

The show is ultimately about family, Haydel said. She pointed out that there are now five generations working at Dooky Chase’s and it takes all of them to fill her grandparents’ shoes. Haydel said she hopes the show “inspires other families to work together, have fun at what you’re doing, and just really take pride in everything that you do and create.”

Her grandmother’s legacy, she said, “is how she inspired people while she was here to be the best that they could be, to serve others and to preserve your family, preserve your history, and honor that, honor people and honor God by doing that.”

THE DOOKY CHASE KITCHEN: LEAH’S LEGACY” premieres on Saturday (April 29) at 10 a.m. on WYES-TV and will stream on and on the free WYES and PBS apps. Episodes will premiere each Saturday at 10 a.m. and will repeat on Sundays at 11:30 a.m. There is also a companion cookbook available and on sale now.   

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Lottie L. Joiner, assistant managing editor at Verite, is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience covering issues that impact underserved and marginalized communities. She...