The legacy of the late New Orleans chef, food scientist and restaurant consultant Warren Leruth is still palpable. You can taste it in such local staples as oyster and artichoke soup, one of the original standards at his renowned restaurant LeRuth's; in Green Goddess salad dressing, which he developed in the 1960s; and even in the recipes for biscuits, red beans and dirty rice from Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, which he created for that company when it was based in Louisiana.
But Leruth's legacy also includes a strong philanthropic spirit, and to honor his devotion to others, St. Michael Special School last week unveiled a new 7-foot-tall statue of the chef at its Uptown campus.
The school, which serves developmentally disabled children, has been the beneficiary of the Chefs' Charity for Children for more than thirty years. This culinary fundraiser was created in 1978 by Leruth and his longtime friend, the late journalist Phil Johnson of WWL-TV, and has since raised more than $1 million.
"My father was at a point then where he wanted to give back and especially to people who really needed it," explained Larry Leruth, the chef's son.
Chefs' Charity for Children is a luncheon held each year in the Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel and prepared by a core group of local chefs who volunteer their time to participate. Hundreds of people attend, and tickets for the event usually sell out early.
A New Orleans native, Leruth trained in French Quarter kitchens in the 1940s before starting a career in food research and development, which included his creation of a new type of salad dressing. In 1966 he opened the restaurant LeRuth's in Gretna. His creative interpretation of Creole cuisine made it a top New Orleans-area dining destination. After selling LeRuth's, which later closed, he continued to work as a R&D consultant for food makers and restaurant concepts. He died in 2001 at age 72.