Willa Jean embraces the South: A new restaurant in New Orleans

By: Todd A. Price, NOLA.com| The Times-Picayune
Picture by:  Todd A. Price
September 15, 2015


Last month, John Besh's restaurant group opened Willa Jean, a bakery in the CBD. Pastry chef Kelly Fields and baker Lisa White are the driving forces behind the project. In this periodic series, we take an early look atnew restaurants in the New Orleans area:

John Besh's restaurant group has become a hit factory like Motown in its heyday. At Shaya, the modern Israeli restaurant that opened last February, people willingly eat dinner as early as 4:30 p.m. to get a seat. At Willa Jean, the Besh group's latest, a reservation is almost required at lunch. Can you say the same of another local place with a menu that is mainly salads and sandwiches?

How do they do it?

Part of the explanation is Besh himself. He has the stature to guarantee that each new project gets national press. But like other growing dining empires (see also, Link Restaurant Group), Besh lets supporting players take the lead.