Chef Kelly Fields grew up in Charleston, South Carolina with a natural talent for baking and cooking. She began working for several New Orleans chefs, but it was Chef Susan Spicer that furthered her passion for culinary arts. She then returned to Charleston to get a degree in baking and pastry arts from Johnson & Wales. Following graduation, she became a pastry chef at Restaurant August.
Hurricane Katrina forced her to leave the city, but she spent that time traveling Europe and Asian working for a variety of chefs, and then San Francisco. Fields moved back to New Orleans in 2010 and rose up in the ranks with BRG Hospitality as an executive pastry chef. Fields opened her own restaurant and bakery, Willa Jean, in 2015, which has since won several accolades. The restaurant focuses on low-country Southern fare and exceptional pastries. Though she moved on from the restaurant in 2021, Willa Jean remains open and a local favorite.
In 2017, Fields launched the “Yes Ma’am” foundation. Their mission is to mentor the next generation of women in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
Chef Fields continues to pull in the awards. She won Chef of the Year and Reader’s Choice Award from Eater New Orleans in 2016. Dessert Professional Magazine named has as one of the “Top Ten Pastry Chefs in North America.” In 2019, Fields won Outstanding Pastry Chef from the James Beard Foundation. It was the third time she was nominated for the prestigious category.