The restaurant will be housed in a newly constructed 3,000-square-foot building and serve high-end, health-leaning foods by Fields. The neighboring 800-square-foot market will stock olive oils, syrups, spices, pasta, sauces, kitchen tools, books, and more.
Although Fields fell in love with cooking early on, the culinary world had to wait. Fields' parents, from Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, expected her to get a “real” degree. She finished high school early, then attended culinary school, which took her to Italy. She returned to the U.S., got a master's degree, and worked her way up to senior vice president in the finance world.
Twenty years later, though, she returned to her first love: cooking. Here's how she got there — and to midtown.
NF: There are two, actually.
My father was a chef. When I was 7, it was a treat for me to go to work with him. He worked at a detention center for boys and would go there two or three times a week and make cookies for these boys. I helped him roll out hundreds of peanut butter cookies. I will never forget the boys’ faces when we’d give them the cookies. They saw my dad as a god. I once said to my dad, "Wow, all this for a cookie?" Dad said, "No. You are not just baking a cookie. You are bringing joy."
My dad would also make dinner at home. We had a big family, there were 13 of us, so getting everyone together happened once a week. When we’d all sit down to dinner and he’d bring out the food, it felt like he had a halo around his head. I remember tapping my feet and shaking my legs because I could not wait to eat the food he’d made. Cooking for me is a way to break down barriers and build bonds.
New Times: Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?
NF: Oh gosh, I never had an entrepreneurial spirit. I wanted to have a stable income and was scared of the unpredictability of working for myself. In fact, I worked in the banking sector until January 2021. All I knew is I wanted freedom.
New Times: You started with oils and spices before moving into cooking.
NF: Yes, I started when I was older, so I knew I needed a product. I did a study abroad in Italy during culinary school. No African-American chefs sold olive oil. So that’s what I started with. Even now, Sharon Stone and the cast of The Sopranos are clients and when you get the okay from Italians, you know you are on the right track. Then I moved to vinegars, spice blends (organic), syrups, and pancake mixes. So Chic Chef is a gourmet brand now.
New Times: Tell us about your olive orchard in Italy.
NF: When I traveled to Italy in 1995, I stayed with a family that owned an olive oil farm. We kept in touch. In 2016, I told them what I wanted to do and they said you can have your orchard here. I started with four trees. Now I have 60. It’s been the best experience for being an oil connoisseur.
NF: I got my culinary arts degree in 1995 but didn’t really use it until 2015 after my own daughter went to college. By 2016, I was working 60 hours a week at my job and 20 as a personal chef. I traveled to Florida, New York, California. Being a chef is labor-intensive. Now add flying five days a week plus working my own job and it was taking a toll on me. I didn’t want to travel anymore. My husband suggested finding NFL players as clients. I honestly wasn’t even looking. It just happened. A year into it, COVID happened and forced me to be still.
New Times: Do you work with other companies for the sauces?
NF: I’ve been waiting for someone to ask me this question. I make everything myself. They are all my recipes. We don’t have a co-packer. Our manufacturing site will be in the same building where the restaurant and store will be.
New Times: What made you cross into the celebrity world?
NF: I’ve always cooked for celebrities. It just started with Sharon Stone. I don’t even know how she found me. Then Snoop Dogg, movie sets, rappers, basketball players came to me. I never had to ask for anything. It was always there. I feel like I was fighting for this my whole life and when the moment came, it was as if it was meant to be. So the wait was necessary.
Nik Fields: I came to attend ASU and never left. I got my degree in criminal justice and later an MBA.
New Times: How did you decide on a restaurant?
NF: To leave my current job and dedicate myself to cooking full-time I had a financial goal in mind. I was driving by the Heard Museum in January of 2020 and noticed the space across from it. Surrounded by condominiums, the location was perfect for a restaurant. It took two months to sign the contract. We started construction in March .
For more information, check out the @chicchefcafe Instagram for the restaurant, @chicchefco for the store, and @nikthechifchef for the chef.