A Sweet Potato Pie for Julia

PBS Food talks with chef Leah Chase, of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, about her time with Julia Child on the show, “In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs.” In the midst of Julia Child 100th Birthday Celebration, Chase pays tribute to her legacy.

PBS Food: What was it like working with Julia Child?

Leah Chase: That was unbelievable. This woman was just wonderful. I cannot tell you. She brought me to Boston, she put me up in a hotel and every time I had to go to her house I could walk because she didn’t live that far away. We worked in the house. She was unbelievable. I never met a person like Julia child. As famous as she was, she was so down to earth. She never made you feel little. I was not a certified chef. But she made me feel so good and I could fry chicken with her and make sweet potato pie. She treated you like family because we did all this in her house. And that was just wonderful, wonderful, wonderful. That was quite an experience for me. I can’t explain it to someone.

I loved her. I never miss a show with Julia. She just made you feel comfortable in anything you did. She never said “this was what you ought to do” or “this is what you should do.”

There was this big picture of me and her in the Smithsonian and I just thought that was so wonderful. I was so excited. She was just a lovely, lovely person. She was so humble. You couldn’t make over her. I’m almost 90 years old and that is the best thing about living long. You reflect on the people that past your way and they leave you something. It could be a cold or something to do. It doesn’t have to be material things. They can just push you along. I feel so privileged to have done anything with the great Julia Child. She never looked down on you. She made you feel your worth. I think if we all made people feel their worth than the world would be a better place. I was a little man on the totem pole that worked with her because I’m just a cook in my kitchen but she made me feel just as good as the greats.

PBS Food: What do you believe is Julia Child’s lasting legacy?

Chase: Her legacy is what she did for the food service in this country. She made people look at food from all kinds of way. She learned food all over in Paris and then she brought it over to this country. When you bring something to people you can make them recreate it on their own. We can use the products and the tools that work in this country. She changed the way America ate and cooked.

PBS Food: What was the impact of appearing on In Julia’s Kitchen with Master Chefs?

Chase: I tell you-it was such-you just don’t realize how important it was to work in Julia Child’s kitchen. You don’t feel how important it is until you sit down and think “I worked with Julia Child.” She was so wonderful. Her look on life was so different. Julia was old when we met but she was very good. She just made you feel good. She made you feel worthy of whatever you did. And I’ll never forget that.

Watch Julia Child and Leah Chase

About Leah Chase

Cooking instinctively without any formal training, Leah Chase pours her soul into her down-home Creole cuisine, mixing black-, Spanish-, and French-influenced food into one delicious menu at her New Orleans restaurant, Dooky Chase. (Photo source: en.wikipedia.org)