Rising Star Chef Kelly Fields of Willa Jean - Biography
New Orleans, LA
For Pastry Chef Kelly Fields, farm fresh has always been the way to go. Growing up in South Carolina, she baked at some of Charleston's best patisseries, where she discovered a natural talent for the sweet side of the industry. Following her passion, Fields attended Johnson & Wales in Charleston, anchoring her pastry enthusiasm with solid technique before eventually making the move to New Orleans.
As it's been known to do, the city charmed her, both as a young culinarian and a NOLA neophyte. But Fields' wide-eyed enthusiasm evolved into a more passionate savvy, owing at least in part to her tutoring under legendary Chef Susan Spicer. Spicer wasn't the only local legend in Fields' career path. After graduating culinary school, Fields met and worked under prolific New Orleans Chef John Besh, climbing the ladder and eventually taking over the pastry program at Besh's Restaurant August.
After Hurricane Katrina, Fields traveled for several years, settling in San Francisco and working at Sens under mentor and 2011 StarChefs.com Rising Star Pastry Chef Shuna Lydon. Like many displaced New Orleans professionals, Fields returned to the city when she could, first as pastry chef at Restaurant August, and eventually taking over pastry operations for the whole Besh group. Over the years, Fields's desserts—blends of the exotic, nostalgic, and romantic—have earned her a cult following. Today, she is not only a leader of the culinary industry in New Orleans, but of her own restaurant, Willa Jean, which opened in summer 2015. At Willa Jean, her business model is simple: she serves everything she loves about food. And it is one of the highest grossing restaurants in the group.