kelly fields

Chef Kelly Fields runs her bakery and cafe Willa Jean in the Warehouse District.

Willa Jean’s Kelly Fields won the Outstanding Pastry Chef award at the 2019 James Beard Awards at the Lyric Opera of Chicago May 6.

Fields was one of 10 local contenders at the annual culinary awards. She has been nominated for the award several times, and she thanked her team at her Southern-inspired bakery and restaurant.

Named for Fields' grandmother, Willa Jean opened in 2015 and became a fixture in the Warehouse District for weekend brunches and Fields’ buttery biscuits and chocolate chip cookies.

New Orleans usually is well represented at the awards ceremony, considered one of the most prestigious of culinary awards. Last year, Freret Street cocktail bar pioneer Cure won Outstanding Bar Program and Compere Lapin's Nina Compton won Best Chef: South. 

The foundation held this year’s media awards at a separate event in April, when Times-Picayune |’s Brett Anderson won the Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award, named for the late Los Angeles food writer, who died last year.

Brennan’s Slade Rushing, Coquette owners Kristen Essig and Michael Stoltzfus and Isaac Toups were all in the running for the 2019 Best Chef: South award, which went to Vishwesh Bhatt of Snackbar in Oxford, Mississippi. It was the first time since 2013 that the award went to a chef outside of New Orleans.