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Chef Leah Chase, civil rights activist and legendary ‘Queen of Creole Cuisine,’ dies at age 96

(CNN) — In her seven-decade culinary career, Leah Chase did far more than introduce thousands to creole cuisine.

She fed presidents and Freedom Riders. She broke New Orleans’ segregation laws by seating black and white patrons together. And she helped mend the country’s divisions, one meal at a time.

The chef and civil rights activist died Saturday, her family said. She was 96 years old.

“Leah Chase, lovingly referred to as the Queen of Creole Cuisine, was the executive chef and co-owner of the historic and legendary Dooky Chase’s Restaurant,” her family said in a written statement.

“Her daily joy was not simply cooking, but preparing meals to bring people together. One of her most prized contributions was advocating for the Civil Rights Movement through feeding those on the front lines of the struggle for human dignity. She saw her role and that of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant to serve as a vehicle for social change during a difficult time in our country’s history.”

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Chase left a profound legacy in the city.

“She was a culture-bearer in the truest sense,” Cantrell tweeted. “We are poorer for her loss, and richer for having known and having loved her. She will be badly missed.”

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