Speaking Broadly: Kelly Fields: America's Newest Outstanding Chef

May 8, 2019
By Dana Cowin


Newly christened Outstanding Pastry Chef in America by the James Beard Foundation, Kelly Fields of Willa Jean in New Orleans, credits a sassy, sarcastic non-cook as being her champion, her savior and her inspiration. Her grandmother, after whom her restaurant is named, supported her when she came out, and encouraged her to pursue other choices that were not popular with her Southern family. Before launching her restaurant, Fields worked with some of America’s beloved chefs including Susan Spicer and Shuna Lydon as well as John Besh, a chef once adored, now reviled, as a result of #MeToo allegations. On this episode of Speaking Broadly, listen in to hear Fields’ thoughts on mentors, #MeToo, and making a perfect dough.

Saveur: How to Eat Your Way Through Chicago Like a Chef

May 6, 2019
By Kat Craddock

Kelly Fields, chef-owner at Willa Jean in New Orleans, LA (Outstanding Pastry Chef nominee): “Sarah's cooking is just grace defined on a plate.”
Previous James Beard award-winners, unsurprisingly, take up a serious chunk of real estate on visiting nominees' must-eat lists. Monteverde chef-owner Sarah Grueneberg won the Best Chef: Great Lakes category in 2017. This year, the pasta mecca can expect visits from many hopefuls in town for the awards, Fields included. Read more…

The Advocate: Willa Jean's Chef Kelly Fields Brings Home James Beard Award

May 6, 2019
By Ian McNulty

Kelly Fields first made her name with exquisite, upscale desserts. This week, the New Orleans chef won a major culinary award for the bakery cafe she named for her grandmother, Willa Jean, and which is best known for a more homespun approach with biscuits, country bread, cake and pastry.

Fields won the outstanding pastry chef award Monday night from the James Beard Foundation, earning a national accolade for a Central Business District restaurant that mixes contemporary style and Southern flavor.

Fields was one of 10 contenders from New Orleans in the running for this year's awards, which are closely watched in the hospitality industry and by dining aficionados. She was the only one of them to come away with a James Beard Award, which was presented at a ceremony in Chicago.   Read more….

NOLA.com: Kelly Fields of Willa Jean wins James Beard Award

May 6, 2019
By: Todd A. Price

The James Beard Awards, the highest honors in the culinary world, were announced Monday night (May 6) in a gala in Chicago. This year, 10 New Orleans chefs and restaurants were nominated. Kelly Fields of Willa Jean, the Southern bakery and restaurant, was the sole local winner of the evening.

Fields was named Outstanding Pastry Chef. This was the third year that Fields, who opened Willa Jean in 2015, was nominated for a James Beard Award in this category.

"If I throw up, I'm sorry," Fields said. "I want to thank my fellow nominees. They're so talented that I didn't prepare a speech." Read more….

Plate: These Chefs Prove that Pimento Cheese is More Than Just a Dip

April 25, 2019
By: Amy Cavanaugh

Pimento cheese, the beloved spread of shredded Cheddar and diced pimentos bound with mayo, may have its origins in the early 20th century as a processed food product from New York State, but was perfected in the subsequent decades in the South. Nowadays, you can find pimento cheese everywhere, and in versions both highbrow and lowbrow. Pimento cheese is famously offered as a $1.50 sandwich at the Masters tournament, but these chefs are finding new ways to put it on their menus. In Chicago, you’ll find it in croquettes with country ham at Roister and slathered on a breakfast sandwich with scrambled eggs and sausage at ALK. It stars on the cheese plate with country ham, pickled okra, and crackers that’s available all day at New Orleans’ Willa Jean. And at Little Rock’s Lost 40 Brewing, jalapenos sub in for pimentos in a pimento grilled cheese. Derby Day, held this year on May 4, is an ideal time to perfect your pimento cheese recipe, so we’ve rounded up a few other ways to work with the creamy, cheesy spread.

Deep South Magazine: Rabbit Pot Pie

April 23, 2019

Known for its brunch, which features a biscuit station and decadent pastries, Willa Jean in New Orleans has quickly become a staple among the dining community. However, those in the know are also drawn to the restaurant in the evening to feast on Chef Kelly Fields’ interpretations of Southern staples. With her eye on supper, Chef Fields has recently added Ham + Potato Croquettes, Rabbit Pot Pie and Chicken + Rice & Gravy to the menu. She shared her Rabbit Pot Pie recipe with us and it includes a roux, so most Southerners should be up for the challenge. Check out the full recipe here….