National Restaurant Association Honors New Orleans Restaurant Owner Leah Chase with 2012 Faces of Diversity Award

The National Restaurant Association has honored Leah Chase, chef and owner of Dooky Chase Restaurant in New Orleans, La., with its 2012 Faces of Diversity American Dream Award.

The award celebrates members of the restaurant and foodservice industry who are the best representation of how, through hard work and determination, one can achieve the American Dream in this industry. The National Restaurant Association presented the awards at a gala dinner during its 2012 Public Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C.

“The winners of our 2012 Faces of Diversity American Dream award serve as an inspiration for us all, and remind us that the entrepreneurial spirit that represents our industry remains strong,” said Dawn Sweeney, president and CEO of the National Restaurant Association. “Leah Chase’s life-long passion for the restaurant industry and mentoring offers a lesson for the next generation of restaurateurs to learn from her unique perspective and experience.”

Known as the “Queen of Creole Cuisine,” Leah Chase has been on the frontlines of the Civil Rights movement, a pioneer of Creole cooking and a longtime promoter of African American art. Chase began learning the ins and outs of the restaurant business at 18 years old in a segregated New Orleans.

In 1945, Chase married musician Edgar “Dooky” Chase II, whose family owned the Dooky Chase Restaurant. She began working at the business several years later, eventually changing the menu to reflect her Creole roots. Admired for her can-do attitude, Chase’s perseverance has seen her through difficult times, including the business-crippling Hurricane Katrina. At 89 years old, Chase has received lifetime achievement awards, honorary doctorates, as well as numerous restaurant and cookbook awards. Still in the restaurant’s kitchen today, Chase is beloved in the city of New Orleans and beyond.

The National Restaurant Association, in partnership with PepsiCo Foodservice, created the Faces of Diversity awards program in 2007. The American Dream Award honors individuals of diverse backgrounds who have found successful rewarding careers in the restaurant industry.

In addition to the award, a $2,500 scholarship was given to an aspiring student in their honor.

The other winners of the 2012 Faces of Diversity award are Bahjat Shariff of Panera Bread in Cumberland, R.I.; and Jorge Levy, Owner of Desperados Mexican Restaurant in Dallas, Texas. For more information about the Faces of Diversity awards program, visit

To view a social media version of the Faces of Diversity awards news release, including downloadable photos and video, visit the Association’s website.

Founded in 1919, the National Restaurant Association is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, which comprises 970,000 restaurant and foodservice outlets and a workforce of nearly 13 million employees. We represent the industry in Washington, D.C., and advocate on its behalf. We operate the industry’s largest trade show (NRA Show May 5-8, 2012, in Chicago); leading food safety training and certification program (ServSafe); unique career-building high school program (the NRAEF’s ProStart, including the National ProStart Invitational April 27-29, 2012, in Baltimore, Md.); as well as the Kids LiveWell program promoting healthful kids’ menu options. For more information, visit and find us on Twitter @WeRRestaurants, Facebook and YouTube.