She cooks for Obama - get her recipe here!

Leah Chase

Queen of creole cuisine Leah Chase has entertained the likes of Barack Obama and Stevie Wonder in her famous New Orleans restaurant, the Dooky Chase. Helen Wainwright caught up with her there and found out why cooking is quite so important to her and why she was the inspiration for the Disney film The Princess and The Frog.

 

Q: What inspired you to want to cook?

A: I graduated from high school at 16 and nobody would hire a sixteen year old so at the age of eighteen I moved to New Orleans to look for a job. I ended up working as a waitress in a restaurant in the French Quarter. I had never stepped foot in a restaurant before but I learned to love the restaurant and I loved working there. Food is a wonderful thing. I cook because I like feeding people. I believe all of the world's problems could be solved over a bowl of Gumbo.

 

Q: Who do you feed here at the Dooky Chase?

A: We feed everyone. White, black, rich, poor, everyone knows Dooky's. We used to open for lunch and dinner but since Katrina we only open for lunch. I used to feed Michael Jackson and his brother's when they were young, Michael used to love sweet potato pie. I cook for Quincy Jones - he always orders gumbo as a birthday present for friends, so I send it out to him in California. Everybody in New Orleans comes to eat here at some point.

 

Q: What do you make of being the inspiration for the Princess in the Disney film?

A: I was surprised! Disney were looking for a New Orleans character to base the princess on. The princess wants to open a restaurant and loves food - so they chose me.

 

Q: Who taught you to cook?

A: I always watched my mother cook when I was young, but she was not a very good cook. With such a large family she didn't enjoy cooking. My mother-in-law taught me how to cook and I learned a lot from reading. I've been in the kitchen for 64 years but I'm still learning.

 

Q: What sort of things do you enjoy cooking?

A: There's nothing I don't like to cook. I love to cook Gumbo, and I love to cook stuffed things - stuffed chicken breasts and eggplants.

 

Q: Can you give us some cooking tips?

A: The only tip I can give is that is takes time to prepare good food. You can't rush good food. People always ask me for a quick recipe for gumbo - there's no quick way to make gumbo, it takes time to make good gumbo. You can't let it boil hard, let it simmer. You have to come to New Orleans to try good Gumbo. If you don't have the time to cook, make a sandwicH.

 

THE RECIPE: Leah Chase's Shrimp or Chicken Clemenceau...

 

Serves four

1 stick of butter

2 medium potatoes (peeled and diced small)

2 lb shrimp (peeled and de-veined) or chicken (diced)

2 x cloves garlic (finely chopped)

½ cup button mushrooms

1 cup green peas

¼ tsp chopped fresh parsley

1/3 cup white wine

Salt and pepper

 

1 Melt the butter in a large frying pan and add the diced potatoes cook for five minutes.

2 Add the shrimp, garlic and mushrooms. Cook until the shrimp are tender or chicken is cooked through.

3 Toss in the green peas, white wine, parsley, salt and pepper - and cook for five minutes. Serve.

 

The Princess and the Frog is out on DVD and Blu Ray now

 

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