A New Disney World Ride Pays Tribute to a New Orleans Culinary Icon

The theme park is debuting new dishes and products to celebrate the opening.

<p>Jacqueline Dole </p>

Jacqueline Dole

Walt Disney World’s newest ride, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, will open to the public on June 28 at Magic Kingdom park in Florida, and later this year at Disneyland in California. To celebrate, the theme park is debuting new dishes and products inspired by 2009 film The Princess and The Frog and late real-life culinary legend Leah Chase.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is replacing Splash Mountain, based on the 1946 movie Song of the South, which has been widely criticized for containing racist tropes. The new ride is named for Princess and the Frog character Tiana, Disney’s first Black princess who dreams of opening her own restaurant in 1920s New Orleans.

Tiana was inspired by “Queen of Creole Cuisine” Leah Chase, who owned and operated New Orleans restaurant Dooky Chase’s with husband Edgar “Dooky” Chase Jr. from 1946 until her death in 2019. (“Dooky” died in 2016.) In addition to helping introduce the country’s diners to dishes like Louisiana gumbo and Southern fried chicken, Leah played an important role in the Civil Rights Movement, hosting NAACP members and leaders including Martin Luther King Jr.

<p>Disney</p> Tiana’s Beignets with Honey Sauce will be served at Magic Kingdom’s Golden Oak Outpost.


Tiana’s Beignets with Honey Sauce will be served at Magic Kingdom’s Golden Oak Outpost.

“Tiana would not be possible if it were not for Leah Chase,” explains Imagineer Carmen Smith. “She was a dreamer, a doer, and a working mom who followed her dream to run a restaurant. She and her husband ran Dooky Chase’s in New Orleans, but it wasn’t just a restaurant. It was a gathering place that inspired so many. When Disney Animation visited New Orleans and sat down with [Leah’s daughter] Stella Chase, they knew this American original was the perfect inspiration for Disney’s first African American princess.”

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The attraction is set a year after the film concludes. Princess Tiana has found success in her restaurant and opened up an employee-owned co-op that also produces its own line of hot sauces and condiments. Tiana needs riders’ help to prepare for a big Mardi Gras party, enlisting them to find a band to play.

The line takes riders through her prep kitchen, where you can spot a batch of Tiana’s famous beignets being made and the gumbo pot she uses in the original film. Imagineers took care to ensure that Tiana’s kitchen paid tribute to Chase, even outfitting the space with the same brand of cookware that Chase owned.

“This is huge. To showcase the hard work of my grandparents, it means the world to us,” says Edgar “Dook” Chase IV, the current executive chef of Dooky Chase’s restaurant and grandson of Leah Chase. “But it also showcases what Tiana is all about: hard work and confidence, and that takes you to the next level. Working alongside my grandmother was a treat. She’d invite everyone to the kitchen, and that’s what her true gift was. Not only her passion for food, but she loved people and she loved to learn about you and your culture.”

<p>Disney</p> Fried chicken seasoning and other Dooky Chase’s products will be available for purchase at gift stores.


Fried chicken seasoning and other Dooky Chase’s products will be available for purchase at gift stores.

When the ride opens on June 28, guests at Magic Kingdom will be able to try dishes like Hot Honey Chicken, Shrimp Gumbo, and Tiana’s Famous Beignets at venues including The Golden Oak Outpost. They can also bring a taste of the bayou home: Select Dooky Chase’s products will be sold at the park’s gift shops, the first time they’ve been available for purchase outside of New Orleans. These include Mama Odie’s Hot Sauce and four varieties of the Chases’ signature seasonings: seafood seasoning, fried chicken seasoning, meat seasoning, and their legendary gumbo base.

“My grandparents would often say that we helped change the course of America with a bowl of gumbo, so we created a gumbo base,” says Edgar.

With Juneteenth upon us, Edgar guesses Princess Tiana would make an okra gumbo for the holiday. “She would have a family meal that’s about bringing people to the table,” he says. “That’s why gumbo is so fascinating — you cannot cook a small pot of gumbo, so you have to bring people together. Otherwise you’re just going to be looking at a big old pot of gumbo. And that’s what food does for people, it brings us together to have dialogue and celebration.”

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