The Big Easy never fails to impress.

By Meghan Overdeep
February 03, 2021
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Leah Chase new Orleans House Float
Credit: Stephanie Kaston

Among the larger-than-life installations comprising New Orleans' house float movement is a tribute to the "Queen of Creole Cuisine," the late, great Leah Chase.

Chase, who passed away in 2019 at the age of 96, was the chef and proprietor of Creole restaurant Dooky Chase, which served as an important gathering place for activists during the Civil Rights Movement.

Homeowners Mark Douce and his wife Alistair Johnson tapped Stronghold Studios to create a house float design celebrating the culinary legend. The result shows Chase cooking a big pot of her famous gumbo. Two giant crawfish and some essential gumbo ingredients complete the masterpiece. There is even a smoke machine to simulate steam coming from the impressive metal pot.

In a Mardi Gras season stymied by the coronavirus pandemic and simmering civil unrest, the Bayou St. John house comes as a welcome reminder of the city's rich and cherished history.  

"Leah Chase was such an important woman in New Orleans not just for her cooking but also her work in civil rights," Douce told NOLA Weekend. "While we never met her, we hope that people view this as a great tribute to her—especially with the renewed focus on racial inequality."

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Douce's isn't the only house on the 2900 block of Bell Street celebrating important women in New Orleans history. The entire street chose to decorate their homes in a theme they call "Belles of the Bayou."

Other "Belles" represented include performer and entrepreneur Chris Owens, author Ann Rice, real estate developer Baroness Pontalba, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, and Voodoo practitioner Marie Laveau.

"The 2900 block of Bell Street has really come together during the pandemic," Douce told NOLA Weekend. "We are all from different walks of life, but the one major commonality has been that we love New Orleans and refuse to let the pandemic get us down."