Material Culture at Dillard University in New Orleans in 2003. Dillard now has a premier program that teaches students and the community about the world-famous New Orleans cuisine. These students will keep the wonderful New Orleans tradition of excellent food alive for many years to come.



Legendary musician and philanthropist Ray Charles loved down home cooking. When Charles visited New Orleans, you could find him eating at his friends’ Edgar “Dooky” Chase Jr. and Leah Chase’s Dooky Chase Restaurant in the historic Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans. In the Ray Charles song “Early in the Morning” Charles included a verse that said, “went down to Dooky Chase to get something to eat.” One thing is clear, Ray Charles loved New Orleans cuisine and culture and for him it was a home away from home from his native Georgia.

In May of 2003, Dillard University awarded an honorary degree to Ray Charles. During his stay in New Orleans, after private meetings with some of the executive administration at Dillard University under the leadership of former Dillard University President Dr. Michael L. Lomax, Ray Charles expressed his concern for the dying African American culinary arts in the South. After careful planning, Ray Charles awarded Dillard University with $1 million, to establish a program in African American Material Culture with a concentration on the study of African American Food Culture in the South. The gift established the first professorship in African American culinary history in the United States. Ray Charles’ vision to preserve the culinary traditions and culture of African Americans in New Orleans and the South would help to create an institution at Dillard University for generations to come.


The mission of the Dillard University Ray Charles Program in African American Material Culture is to research, document, disseminate and preserve the culinary patrimony of African Americans and to celebrate African American culture through the study of food and foodways in the South. The scholarship that the program and its institute engender will serve as the culinary focal point for the African American communities of New Orleans, the South, the United States and the world-at-large


To preserve, research and document African American foodways in New Orleans and the South.


New Orleans Creole Culinary Queen Leah Chase serves as the Ray Charles Honorary Ambassador

Dillard University Ray Charles Program in African American Material Culture pays tribute to the late Dr. Rudy Lombard; New Orleans civil rights activist, pioneering culinary scholar and author of Creole Feast: 15 Master Chefs of New Orleans Reveal Their Secrets (1978) by naming their lecture series after Dr. Rudy Lombard o class="scalable"n April 16, 2015.

Dillard University student Candace Satterfield participates in network opportunities with the Dillard University Ray Charles Program.

Care Roots demonstrates healthy cooking and living to Dillard University and the community.

Chef Linda Green — The Yakamein Lady — mentors Dillard University stude class="scalable"nt Jamiere Morris.

Mardi Gras Indian Queen Cherice Harrison Nelson and her mother share her family recipe with the youth of New Orlean.

NASA Rocket Scientist Dr. Howard Conyers shares South Carolina Whole Hog Roasting Traditions with Dillard University.

Longtime friends of Ray Charles: Edgar Dooky Chase and Ray Charles Culinary Ambassador Leah Chase.

Dillard University student Jeremy Shine perfects his photography skills with Executive Chef Wil Sampson.

MasterChef Contestant Christian Green, Dillard Dining Executive Chef Joel Williams and Private Chef Gason Nelson prepare a delicious meal for the Dillard community.