Thursday, October 15, 2009

President Obama Visits New Orleans Today; Lunch From Legendary Dooky Chase Restaurant

Historic Gumbo to go...
President Obama will visit New Orleans, Louisiana today, to survey post-Katrina Recovery efforts, and hold two public events. It's the President's first visit to the city since becoming president, but it's the fifth time he's visited, according to the White House. And because there's no time for lunch built into the schedule...the President and his team, which includes Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, will be enjoying take out from Dooky Chase restaurant, a legendary local eatery that specializes in Creole cuisine. Leah Chase, the 86-year old chef/owner, has hosted many politicos and famous people over the years, including President George Bush, who toured New Orleans fifteen times after Katrina. And she's even hosted Mr. Obama before, back when he was still a Senator on the campaign trail in February of 2008, shortly after her storm-damaged restaurant had newly re-opened. On the Recovery visit lunch menu today: Gumbo, Shrimp Creole, and Fried Chicken. (Above: One of the most famous "Obama eating" photos was taken during the Dooky Chase visit in 2008; that's Xavier University president Norman Francis in the background; he's often misidentified as a waiter)

Chase told local media that the Gumbo-to-go was rapidly organized yesterday afternoon, with assistance from White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers, a NOLA native (and two-time Zulu Queen). Chase was asked to have the President's order ready for pick-up at 10 AM today, and she was visited by two members of the Secret Service yesterday, who wanted to discuss secure take-out packaging. Chase noted that the Gumbo should be kept warm, but that her Fried Chicken is yummy when served cold. (Above: then-Senator Obama with Leah Chase and Francis in 2008)

During his 2008 visitor, then-Senator Obama intended to just drop in to say hello, but Chase insisted he sit and eat a bowl of her famous Gumbo.

"You're too frail, baby, I have to fatten you up," Chase reportedly said to Mr. Obama.

Dooky Chase is named after Leah Chase's father-in-law; she was married to Dooky Chase II, and learned to cook classical Creole cuisine--and a mash-up of Sicilian, French, and Italian--by working in the family's three restaurants. Chase is also the author of The Dooky Chase Cookbook, which is available at Amazon. A cultural and community landmark, in addition to being famous for its food, Dooky Chase has even been memorialized in song, in Ray Charles's "Early Morning Blues."

*The President's three-hour, 45 minute New Orleans trip will include a visit to the Dr. Martin Luther King Charter School, the only school to have re-opened in the Lower 9th ward after Katrina, and there'll be a Town Hall at the University of New Orleans. *Photos by Ted Jackson, The Times-Picayune