omg you guys, Tiana was partially based on a real person!
I was watching a show about pies, and they had Leah Chase talking about the history of sweet potato pies, and she’s actually really famous for her pies. Michael Jackson loved her pies. Julia Child asked permission to put her sweet potato pie recipe in one of her books. Julia Child.
And kudos to Disney for researching her and incorporating her into Tiana. I never knew this. It just makes this movie more awesome I guess.
Born in 1923, Chase is the kitchen wizard behind New Orleans’ staple restaurant Dooky Chase. “My first job in New Orleans was working as a waitress at a restaurant. That was the 1940s, when it was almost unheard of for a young black girl, a so-called Creole of Color, to go and work in the French Quarter. That was a no-no,” she says. “But I loved it. You see, it was segregation, and I had never seen the inside of a restaurant in my life. … I loved waiting on people. I loved seeing people eat. And if you like that, you’re going to go further.”
In 1944, Chase met her husband, Dooky, whose parents ran a small sandwich shop. “I just made it grow. Did what I like to do,” she says. “Stumbled a lot, but that’s what life’s all about. You just stumble and keep going.”
When Disney creators were looking for a story to inspire their new animated film about an African-American princess in New Orleans, it was easy for them to find Chase. “When you do a lot of work in your community, you become known, so somebody probably referred [Disney] to me, and I’m so happy about that,” she says. “Now everybody wants to be Tiana. I think it’s fantastic. When I came up, being a cook was nothing. It’s just lately that we have chefs coming into their own. Back then, people would look at you, especially if you were a black woman, and say: ‘Oh, you just a cook. That’s it.’ But now, being a chef is It.”
I was so happy to learn this so I thought to share.