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New Orleans' culinary students remember Leah Chase

"She paved the way for black people, not only in this city, but the entire country, to be business owners, be at the forefront of your restaurant."

NEW ORLEANS — Leah Chase was part of the very fabric of New Orleans, and a key figure in the Civil Rights Movement.

So, it was fitting that on Monday, two days after news of Chase's passing at the age of 96, people were outside her historic Dooky Chase restaurant to celebrate her life with a traditional second line. 

And now future chefs learning the craft that Chase perfected in the very same city say they're ready to carry on the legacy inspired by the life of the Queen of Creole Cuisine. 

RELATED: Leah Chase, beloved 'Queen of Creole Cuisine,' dies at 96

After five and a half months of intensive training, future culinary artists are about to graduate as the first class from the New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute. 

Graduates hope to impress the taste buds of locals and tourists from around the world with flavors unique to New Orleans -- but they know being successful means more than what goes on your fork, and they say those are part of the lessons they will carry forward from the late Chase.

"I'm definitely going to take family, strife, to strive hard and just to be myself, be humble and be persistent at that, too, and do what I love the most which is cooking," said NOCHI student Chanda Wyatt, who says her mother loved eating at Dooky Chase.

RELATED: Leah Chase was an iconic figure in the civil rights movement

Even in a brief encounter when Ms. Chase visited Wyatt's class, there was a lifetime of lessons for some. 

"I wanted to always remember the moment I met a female pioneer in the culinary industry, especially a black female," said NOCHI student Tranique Brown.

She says there was one question she wished she had asked. "Was she ever nervous? Because you know we're all starting fresh in this industry," Brown said. 

"She just gave advice of always remembering to be a pioneer, and be a maverick in this field, and do everything you can to make a difference, said NOCHI student Grant Higginbotham.

RELATED: The world mourns famed restaurateur Leah Chase

As the students prepare to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire of starting and running a business, they say they will remember how Ms. Chase showed the importance of being a citizen of the world.

"She is, in my opinion, one of the greatest restaurateurs who ever lived. She paved the way for black people, not only in this city, but the entire country, to be business owners, be at the forefront of your restaurant, to be the face of it, and I think the city will really suffer from her loss," said Higginbotham.

RELATED: Carrying the torch: New Orleans chefs remember Leah Chase

"I have to exude cooking. I feel like that's what she did no matter what she went through, especially with the Civil Rights Movement," said Wyatt.

For more on eating at NOCHI, taking classes or donating: https://www.nochi.org/

RELATED: Read the Chase family's statement mourning beloved chef Leah Chase's death