Talking Thanksgiving with Kelly and Lisa of Willa Jean Restaurant

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Photo courtesy Stephen DeVries

Classically trained pastry chefs Kelly Fields and Lisa White earned their reputation in the New Orleans restaurant scene under the tutelage of acclaimed chef, John Besh. Recently, they have come together as the hearts and masterminds behind their splendid bakery and café, Willa Jean. This downtown New Orleans spot is named after Field’s grandmother, from whom she inherited her love of farm-fresh ingredients, and offers heavenly baked goods as well as Southern- and Creole-influenced fare.

Who is your biggest baking influence?

Kelly: My mom—she baked every week of my childhood, and frankly, I still steal her recipes.

Lisa: It would have to be Kathleen Weber from Della Fattoria in Petaluma, California.

First food memory?
Kelly: Eating ripe tomatoes straight off the vine in our garden

Lisa: I once snuck eggs and milk out of the kitchen into the yard to make a chocolate cake with a mud puddle I found!

Most important Thanksgiving tradition?

Kelly: Family. Thanksgiving is the biggest celebration of the year with my extended Fields family. We used to visit my grandmother (Willa Jean) over Thanksgiving and it would be a circus of aunts, uncles, cousins, adopted chosen family and the like for days.

Lisa: Spending time with loved ones!

What is a customer fall favorite at Willa Jean?

Kelly: Baked Apple Crisp with Caramelized Oat Streusel + Poirier’s Cane Syrup Ice Cream

Lisa: The Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate

What’s one thing we’d be surprised to find in your home pantry?

Kelly: Hershey’s chocolate syrup

Lisa: Marshmallows—I love them!

What’s your favorite fall ingredient?

Kelly: Apples! I put them in and on everything.

Lisa: Satsumas and cranberries

It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without…?

Kelly: Mashed potatoes and creamed corn

Lisa: Cornbread stuffing and spiced wine

Family favorite Thanksgiving dessert?

Kelly: My mom’s chocolate peanut butter pie

Lisa: Cranberry JELL-O salad

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