In March 2008, while walking the isolated trails of Camino de Compostela, Lisa White smelled the scent of intoxicating village baked goods, which after tasting reawakened her passion for baking. When she returned to the States, she made the decision to go to culinary school in her late 30s and enrolled in the accelerated Baking and Pastry program at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.
While attending the program, she worked at the Wine Spectator restaurant, baking bread at night. After leaving the CIA, she landed a position as a pastry cook with Della Fattoria in Petaluma, California. It was there that White's nascent passion for farm-to-table cooking grew as she worked with founder and owner Kathleen Weber.
In April 2009, she felt drawn back to New Orleans – a city she’d first come to know as a Red Cross Volunteer after Hurricane Katrina. After arriving in New Orleans, White began working for John Besh, a chef she had always admired for his work to help feed the community in the immediate aftermath of Katrina. She quickly earned a pastry position at his flagship Restaurant August, where she continued to impress the group with her baking skills. From there she became part of the opening team at Domenica, where her role expanded into many areas from bread, pastry and pasta production to house-made liqueurs and pickling. In 2015, White opened Willa Jean Bakery along with Chef Kelly Fields where she helmed the restaurant’s bread and pastry programs. This earned White recognition from Eater NOLA as the 2016 “Chef of the Year.”
After her success with Willa Jean, White was appointed a role within Our House Hospitality, a new division of John Besh Restaurant Group that oversees food and beverage operations for the group’s growing list of hotel-based properties. In 2017, she moved to Nashville to build the pastry program for all three concepts at Thompson Nashville: Marsh House seafood restaurant, Killebrew coffee shop, and L.A. Jackson, the hotel’s rooftop bar and restaurant.
White is deeply committed to making the world around her a better place and dedicates her time, energy and talents to several causes. In 2017, she will once again participate in Chefs Cycle, a three day 300 mile bike ride to raise funds and awareness for No Kid Hungry. She works closely with the John Besh Foundation (JBF) through her dedicated mentorship of the Chef’s Move! scholarship program recipients and through working with farmers who have received micro-loans under the Milk Money program. Lisa is also a board member at The Please Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing scholarships to underprivileged children in New Orleans. She’s the proud pet parent to Millie, an English Bulldog rescue White adopted following the 2016 floods in Baton Rouge.