Top New Orleans Pastry Chefs Name Their Favorite Local Food Innovators

Two New Orleans pastry pros name some Big Easy food professionals you need to know.  

F&W's #FOODWINEWOMEN series spotlights top women in food and drink in collaboration with Toklas Society. Follow the hashtag on Twitter (@foodandwine). Here, a couple of New Orleans pastry pros name some Big Easy food professionals you need to know.

Who: Kelly Fields and Lisa White
What: Executive pastry chefs
Where: Besh Restaurant Group, and the soon-to-open Willa Jean, all in New Orleans; @krfields, @pastrygirllisa

Our picks for up-and-coming women in the New Orleans food industry come from all walks of the business. They're fiercely talented and consistently pushing forward in their respective areas of culinary expertise. The one thing that binds them together, more than even their passion for food, is their shared enthusiasm for community and for New Orleans.

This list is a group of women that we hold up as examples of the fact that we don’t have to stick to the norm in order to be successful, and we don’t have to do things the way that everyone else does them. If you keep knocking your head against the ceiling, find another ladder! If you are not happy with where you are, it’s OK—and even amazing—to start again.

Subject’s Name: Leighann Smith
Affiliation: The butcher at Cochon Butcher
What She Does: Butchers whole animals
What Sets Her Apart and Why She’s Amazing or Breaking Ground: Leighann doesn't let anything stop her—and it is so darn obvious that she loves what she does! All of that, and she can rock a tutu. Bonus: She is an amazing artist, too!

Subject’s Name: Lauren Morlock
Affiliation: Owner at Solo Espresso
What She Does: Lauren has opened a small, off-the-beaten-path espresso bar in the 9th ward of New Orleans.
Signature Item: Coffee. All of it. It’s not to be missed.
What Sets Her Apart and Why She’s Amazing or Breaking Ground: Lauren opened Solo Espresso after years of experience in the coffee industry, ranging from work with small coffee shops to clients in the corporate coffee world. She continues to push herself, grow her knowledge and consistently make the best coffee in New Orleans. Her passion and enthusiasm are almost tangible as you visit her shop, and she often shares her space with local artists and chefs, letting them sling their goods there. She is focused on coffee bean growers, local dairy suppliers and the community around her.

Subject: Melissa Martin
Affiliation: Chef at Mosquito Supper Club
What She Does: Melissa has created an old-school supper club where she celebrates the bounty of the land and the seafood of southern Louisiana. She pays tremendous homage to the traditions of our indigenous cuisine and her ancestors all at once. The influence of her grandmother’s cooking is almost palpable in her dishes.
Signature Dish: Velma Marie's Oyster Soup, cucumbers and tomatoes with cane syrup and the mind-bogglingly delicious Tarte à la Bouillie pie.
What Sets Her Apart and Why She’s Amazing or Breaking Ground: Melissa has redefined the modern supper club by taking the concept back to its historical roots, focusing on family, community and the simple act of sharing a meal with others. She delivers rustic, family-style dishes with elegance. Her food brings people together effortlessly over the course of an evening, and everyone leaves as full, satisfied new friends.

Subject: Syrena Johnson
Affiliation: Chefs Move! scholarship recipient and cook at Café Adelaide
Accomplishment: Syrena was the first Chefs Move! scholarship recipient.
What Sets Her Apart and Why She’s Amazing or Breaking Ground: At 22, Syrena went off to New York for nine months to study at the International Culinary Center, thanks to a scholarship with Chef’s Move!, a program that seeks to diversify the restaurant industry by providing training and mentorship to young minority chefs. Since returning to New Orleans, Syrena completed internships in some of the best kitchens in the city before becoming a cook at Café Adelaide. She’s dedicated to paying forward all she's been able to experience through the Chefs Move! program, and she mentors students through Liberty’s Kitchen, the skills program she completed when she was younger. She has spent countless hours working side by side with Ms. Leah Chase to learn about New Orleans food and its history. With the experience she continues to gain, she's bound to become a major force in the food community.

Related: Four Superstar Women Chefs Name Up-and-Comers to Watch
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