Sunday Spotlight: Leah Chase

ABC News' Susan Saulny on the historical legacy and cooking of New Orleans chef Leah Chase.
3:29 | 07/06/14

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Transcript for Sunday Spotlight: Leah Chase
on the story of trailblazing chef Leah chase. She took a stand against Jim crow and a segregated south changing history with a little bit of gumbo. Our Susan saulny takes us to new Orleans. It was the best gumbo I ever had. So he picks up the hot sauce in the gumbo. I said, Mr. Obama, you don't put hot sauce in my gumbo. Reporter: Not everyone can tell Barack Obama how to enjoy his lunch. But when you're the queen of creole cuisine still cooking in the same New Orleans restaurant you built in the 1940s, there are certain liberties. We had a fuss. Reporter: Leah chase may be the most important chef you've never heard of. She's fried chicken with Julia child, judged gumbo on "Top chef," fed prime ministers and presidents alike. Ray Charles even sang about her cooking. ? I went to dooky chase's to get something to eat ? Reporter: In the '40s a and '50s, her dooky chase was the only upscale restaurant to serve notable african-americans, dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles. Everybody. Reporter: But chase would blaze a trail not just by bringing in big names, in the segregated '50s and '60s dooky chase was ground zero for blacks and whites hoping to change history together. During the civil rights movement at great risk to yourself and your family, you defied the laws of the Jim crow south. You allowed the civil rights movement, people who needed to strategize, who were white and black to come in here and have meetings. You know, yes, we did. Anything you thought that could better people, you just did it. But someone threw a bomb at the restaurant. But it didn't even worry me. Freedom fighters are meeting in an upstairs room. Everything. I knew I could not do what they were doing. So that was your contribution to the movement. Feed them. Reporter: She wanted to fortify their hearts and souls with her etouffees and Her jambalayas. My daddy brought me up that way. The three things we had to live by was pray, work, do for others. Reporter: So when Disney moviemakers went looking for inspiration for "The princess and the frog," a model for their first black princess, they turned to Leah chase. ? Dreams do come true ? I was so proud of that because they had snow white, belle. Reporter: So many. Cinderella. No one that looked like you or had a work ethic like you. They made her pretty and I'm so happy for that. Reporter: Even at age 91 you'll still find this self-taught chef hard at work in her kitchen whipping up the gumbo that in a city full of finicky foodies remains the gold standard. You put pepper beyond what's in the hot sauce, though, no? The hot sausage, there isn't enough pepper in there. You see, I make the roux with the grease from the hot sausage. Okay. Tips from a pro. Reporter: Like her gumbo, Leah chase is an original cooking up a life of passion and activism. The finished product, unforgettable. For "This week," Susan saulny, ABC news, New Orleans. Our thanks to Susan, and if that made you hungry, you can head to to find Leah chase's recipe for one of her famous gumbos. And we end with some welcome

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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