Opened in August 2015, Willa Jean celebrates Southern sensibilities with fresh, local ingredients. Named after Chef Partner Kelly Fields’ grandmother, who inspired her to pursue her passions, the restaurant and bakery serves breakfast, lunch and dinner throughout the week, and offers Saturday and Sunday brunch.
The modern elegance of the dining room lends its charm to Fields’ haven of Southern-inspired dishes and sets the stage for the playful, nostalgic nature of the ever-evolving menu. Willa Jean’s menus are categorized by “snacks,” “the biscuit situation,” “sandwiches,” “hot plates,” and “desserts” and showcase everything from fluffy biscuits topped with fried chicken and tabasco honey to cookies + milk served with an eggbeater of fresh cookie dough. Heartier favorites include artichoke and cheese business, New Orleans style BBQ shrimp toast, fried chicken + spicy slaw sandwich on a house-made Hawaiian roll, as well as a seasonal-driven skillet pot pie.
The front bakery counter serves up daily selections of bakery treats and house-made breads, pulling from Kelly’s passion for all things pastry, coupled with the immeasurable talents of the entire Willa Jean team.
Kelly has placed a strong emphasis on the coffee program and is delighted to bring Intelligentsia Coffee back to New Orleans with a signature Willa Jean blend.
chef kelly fields
Having mastered her craft for over two decades, accoladed Chef/ Owner Kelly Fields opened restaurant and bakery Willa Jean in 2015,
showcasing her robust pastry expertise and passion for Lowcountry-Southern cuisine. As a leader in the city’s dining scene, she distinguishes the Central Business District restaurant with comforting soul food in a warm, approachable atmosphere.
Over the years, Fields and Willa Jean have garnered both local and national praise and in 2019, Fields won the coveted title of Outstanding Pastry Chef at the James Beard Awards, having been a nominee and semifinalist in the category for four years prior.
In her role as owner, she considers not only her guests experience, but also the success of her dedicated team, as she leads and executes day-to-day operations. Fields is currently eyeing expansion to new markets and the launch of nationwide shipping of her best-selling bakery items, like the Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Fields will release her first cookbook in the fall of 2020. The currently untitled project will be an approachable encyclopedia of modern Southern baking, while showcasing the grit and richness of Southern and New Orleans baking traditions.
In addition to her role at Willa Jean, Fields works hard to make an impact within the community by mentoring emerging New Orleans chefs. In 2017, she launched the "Yes Ma'am" foundation to inspire, encourage, and mentor the next generation of women in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
Texas born and New Mexico raised, Yolanda Torres grew up in a single parent home with strong Spanish roots. While other kids were spending weekends hanging out with friends, Yolanda spent her down-time earning money to buy and test out new ingredients for family dinners. Yolanda jumped into the hospitality industry at the age of 16, and furthered her education by earning her associate's degree in culinary arts from CNM in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and from The Culinary Institute of America. In addition to her culinary experience, Yolanda also spent 11 years in corporate accounting.
In 2013, to gain more experience in Southern and Creole cooking, she moved to New Orleans and starting working with Chefs Donald Link and Steven Stryjewski in the Link Restaurant Group. After two years of pig slaying, Yolanda joined the opening team at Chef Kelly Fields’s Willa Jean. She quickly moved up and earned her spot as Chef de Cuisine, where she leads and elevates the entire Willa Jean family.
In addition to her role at Willa Jean, Yolanda works to have a positive impact on her community. She is an active mentor for culinary school scholarship recipients and young cooks. She is a founding board member of the Yes Ma’am Foundation, focused on community, leadership and mentorship for women in the Hospitality Industry.
When not in the kitchen, Yolanda likes to spoil her two dogs, explore the world through travel and literature, and spend time with her amazing wife, Daniella.