P&V Radio: Kelly Fields & Biggio Hamina Sunnyside Riesling
On the day we made this podcast, Chef Kelly Fields arrived at my apartment straight from work and wearing her kitchen uniform. The white short sleeve button down with the restaurant logo on the pocket looked more like that of a line cook or dishwasher than a head chef, which is exactly how she runs her restaurant, Willa Jean. Humble, with the emphasis on team.
I’ve longed wanted to sit down and talk with her about being a woman chef, her path to becoming a chef-partner with the John Besh Restaurant Group, and how she approaches her craft. After months of talking about it, I finally wrangled some time from her busy schedule to pick up the mic and drink a bottle of Biggio Hamina riesling, which was donated by the winery.
“I don’t know if you can tell on a podcast or not, but there’s nothing fancy about me,” she says. This is what I love about Kelly. She was one of the first people I met upon moving to New Orleans and is one of the realest humans I know. I’m inspired by her confidence, gumption, focus, hard work and dedication to lifting up other women. She runs a diverse though lady-dominant kitchen, which we talk about in this episode, and what that means both personally to her and in a larger context. She’s laid her own path from “helping out” in a friend’s parents’ bakery to bluffing her way into a pastry position with New Orlean’s renowned Susan Spicer in the late 1990s, and to traveling Europe and New Zealand on a self-designed culinary education, to becoming a James Beard nominated pastry chef in 2017.
Next week, to benefit the John Besh Foundation, for which she serves as a mentor as part of the Chefs Move program, she's hosting a dinner called Yes Ma’am. Chefs Nina Compton of Compère Lapin, Cassidee Dabney of Blackberry Farm, Traci Des Jardins of Jardinière, Kristen Kish of 36 Hours and Kelly will each contribute to the meal. Then there’s the after party at Willa Jean, where Rebecca Wilcomb of Herbsaint, Sarah Kosikowski Tibbetts of Valrhona Chocolate, Abigail Gullo of Compère Lapin (who has also been a guest on this show), Lucinda Weed of Black Penny and Larin Culp of Iris will be showing their talents behind the bar.
The dinner is sold out, but there are still tickets to the after party available. If you’re in town, get one. It’s going to be Badass.
As not-fancy as Kelly can be, I start this episode with my own not-fancy, slightly awkward introduction, complete with an interruption from Alice, my cat. This interview is completely unedited, 100% real conversation and, I hope, inspiring, informative and entertaining.
Listen on iTunes, Podbean and anywhere you like to experience your podcasts.
Bonus on this episode: I figured out how to export the recording in mono, so no more vocal tennis match in your earphones. Bless my heart.
Biggio Hamina Sunnyside Vineyard Riesling
The husband and wife team behind Biggio Hamina makes small lots of riesling and pinot noir, as well as pinot blanc, grigio and a cool Northern Rhône style syrah-based wine. I've known Todd Hamina for probably 15 years now, reaching way back to my early days selling wine in New York City when he was making wine for Patton Valley Vineyards, also in the Willamette Valley. He sent me a box of mixed selections from his eponymous project awhile back, and I finally had an opportunity to share some of it with purpose.
Kelly and I both found the riesling refreshing, tart with a dry finish but also with a silkiness that made it lovely to drink on its own. As the wine warmed, we found more floral and white fruit aromatics complemented the supple texture. Riesling isn't a preferred grape in my book, in part because the naturally high acidity and my poor constitution cause me to easily suffer the heartburn. But this one didn't effect me that way. I think because it's been through malo, it was more mellow than a typical riesling, and so more friendly to my biology.
Todd is making hands-off wines with native yeast fermentations, mostly inert winemaking vessels, and no fining or filtering. This is the real deal, old school, tiny production family owned wines of the place they're from. If you'd like to get your hands on some, reach out to the winery to join their mailing list and put an order together. Tell Todd I say, Hey. I also highly recommend the 2008 XIV Syrah/Viognier Deux Vert vineyard if they've still got it. It's an interesting beast, and I wish I had another bottle.