Legacy Award winner Leah Chase (Source: Lonnie Major/Black Enterprise)
World-renowned chef and 2009 Legacy Award winner Leah Chase, owner of Dooky Chase in New Orleans, says she doesn’t have the patience to teach anyone anything. But I beg to disagree. I along with my colleague Annya Lott received priceless hands-on training yesterday as we sat with Chase (and her beautiful daughter Stella) for an unexpected lesson about life and our role as women today.
This was just one of the experiences I’m labeling as a “bonus session” during my time here at the Women of Power Summit. Of all the things we were privileged to take away from this feisty 86-year old woman was a homework assignment to realize just how powerful we as black women truly are.
“Back then you did everything you had to do,” was how she put into perspective the appreciation for all the advances we’ve made in education, women’s right, and civil rights.
Although she has lived such an abundant life and blazed a trail for others, Chase didn’t hesitate in saying how inspired she was to see so many young, bright, beautiful women in attendance at the Women of Power conference.
We’ve all come together to see just how we can harness this power Chase recognizes in each one of us as well as in the collective group. And to be able to achieve this means that we have defied the odds, beat the system and said “hell no” to the status quo. A lover of food and art, Chase didn’t let anyone stifle her growth, which makes her the perfect person to share with us the wisdom that has gotten her through. Her recipe for living, which she learned from her father and have since passed them on to not only her children but now to all the women here at the summit:
3. Do for others
Again, Chase doesn’t hesitate in saying she is not a teacher. To learn how to make her signature dishes, which have kept Dooky Chase restaurant going strong for over 60 years, means to just hang back and observe the petite power in the kitchen. Of course, last night Annya and I were attentive students. Our homework not only during but after we leave WPS will be to not only identify the power in all of us but harness it, make it a part of our daily quest to be women of power in both our professional and personal lives.
And along with this, the key is to pass it on, just as Ms. Chase has done for us. She said it best in her tribute video: “If you get two steps, then you bring somebody else up.”
Tennille M. Robinson is the small business editor at Black Enterprise magazine.