What They Feed:
breakfast, lunch & dinner, composed desserts, breads and pastries, highlighting chefs Kelly Fields’ and Lisa White’s passions and specialties
Seeders & Feeders They Support: Mauthe’s Family Dairy, Hoffman’s Farm
Pastry Chefs Kelly Fields and Lisa White are the talented collaborators behind Willa Jean, a beautiful bakery and restaurant in downtown New Orleans.
Growing up in the lowcountry of South Carolina, Kelly inherited her love of farm fresh ingredients and began baking in some of Charleston’s best patisseries. Upon graduating from Johnson & Wales she became the pastry chef of Restaurant August in New Orleans under the tutelage of Chef John Besh. After spending a few years working in San Francisco following Hurricane Katrina, Kelly returned to New Orleans with even more experience and took the position of Executive Pastry Chef for the Besh Restaurant Group.
Lisa, a California native, was inspired to follow her life-long dream of baking professionally after a trip to France. She enrolled in the accelerated Baking and Pastry program at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone and began work as a pastry cook with Della Fattoria in Petaluma, CA before moving to New Orleans. Lisa was inspired to work with John Besh after hearing stories of the relief work he led after Hurricane Katrina. She started with the Besh Restaurant Group as the pastry cook at Restaurant August and eventually went on to open and spearhead the pastry program at Domenica. Lisa now oversees all bread and pastry at Domenica and PIZZA Domenica.
It was decided in the Besh Restaurant Group family that they wanted to open a bakery and restaurant to highlight all the amazing things they were doing with baked goods and desserts among the portfolio. Conversations started between John Besh, Lisa White and Kelly Fields and before they knew it, they were opening a bakery!
Willa Jean, named after Kelly’s grandmother, has several inspirations behind it: family, the city of New Orleans, Chef John Besh and his constant support and standards of hospitality and service, and the overwhelming world of people in the food industry doing such good, beautiful work all over the world.
Willa Jean serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, allowing the two chefs to show off their savory sides. The playful fare include items like: pigs in a blanket with apricot mustard; grains and legumes salad with almonds and zesty vinaigrette; fried chicken biscuit with serrano slaw and poirier’s cane syrup and key lime somethin’, to name a few signature items. Willa Jean also offers many of the composed desserts, breads and pastries that have garnered popularity across the BRG establishments.
Over the years of working in New Orleans the Willa Jean family (as individuals and as a restaurant group) has built strong relationships with many local farms. They source all of their milk from a family farm (Mauthe’s) and eggs from Hoffman’s, plus a handful of varied foragers/sourcing pros. They also work with a cane syrup producer, and are currently trying to work something out with a salt maker and honey maker.
As a new business, they’ve experienced the challenges that you would expect from anyone opening a restaurant: staffing, sourcing, hours and a good overall understanding of their needs and making sure they are met. Regardless, Kelly and Lisa are very happy with their unexpected high level of business. Regardless, they continue to refine and focus their mission daily, striving to improve each and every day for their guests and their employees.
Advice to New Feeders: “You’d better love what you do!”
“When starting a project you have an idea but you have not interacted with the customer yet. You have to be open to adapt to what the customer wants constantly.” – Kelly Fields
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