As a private chef, her clientele have included TV and movie stars, professional athletes and Snoop Dogg. As an entrepreneur, she launched an artisan food company that ships olive oil, vinegars and spices nationwide.
Now Nik Fields of Goodyear, Arizona is ready to open her first restaurant in Phoenix, scheduled to debut January 1, 2021. It will open alongside her first brick-and-mortar shop to sell goods from her business Chic Chef Company and other Valley brands.
As a 43-year-old Black woman who started her culinary career only four years ago and is opening her first restaurant during a pandemic, Fields feels like the variables are working against her.
But she also feels that after years of putting her dreams on hold, now is her time.
“It really boiled down to: My husband receiving his PhD, my daughter graduating from college and having a baby, and it was my time to do what I wanted to do,” Fields said. “I’ve done everything I could to get my family to where they are now. Cooking has always been my passion.”
Meet Nik Fields, the “chic chef”
Nik Fields will be opening a restaurant and market called “Chic Chef” in central Phoenix in early January of 2021. She is seen with her homemade seasonings, which will be sold at the market, at her home in Goodyear on November 13, 2020. (Photo: David Wallace/The Republic)
Fields grew up in Brooklyn, one of 13 siblings in a Caribbean American family. She started working as a private chef in 2016, more than 20 years after she first started going to culinary school in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Under pressure from her parents, she went to college after culinary school and entered a lucrative career in finance. Fields said in the past, her parents considered cooking for people to be a form a servitude. They didn’t want their daughter to become a cook after African Americans had spent more than a century pigeon-holed into domestic work.
“My parents thought it was a downgrade,” Fields said. “They thought, ‘So you’re really going to culinary school to cook for people. You’re becoming like a stereotype when you can go to college and be whoever you want to be.'”
Fields said she wanted to make her parents proud, so she “followed all the steps.” She went to college, got a good paying job, got married, and had a child. It’s not a journey she regrets, however.
Her stable job at a bank helped her put their daughter through college, Fields said. She also credits her experience in the corporate world for giving her the business acumen she needed to succeed when she switched to cooking, working as a private chef and starting her own food brand, Chic Chef Company.
She didn’t set out to cook for celebrities, Fields said, but “once you cook for one, they come out of the woodwork.” She didn’t even have a website at the time and people would reach out to her on Instagram, she recalled.
Fields gave as an example the time she worked as the personal chef for Chris Johnson, former running back for the Arizona Cardinals. Through word of mouth, other athletes in the NFL and NBA learned about her and began hiring her, she said.
Or that one time she catered for a film crew in Los Angeles. Afterward, she began getting requests to cook for movie stars, including Vivica A. Fox and Sharon Stone. Fields got particularly excited when she had the chance to cook twice for actors Tisha Campbell and Tichina Arnold, who starred in one of her favorite TV shows, the ’90s sitcom “Martin.”
“Out of everybody they know, how did they find me?” Fields said.
What to expect at Chic Chef Co Cafe
Chic Chef Co Cafe is located off Central Avenue in Phoenix, not far from the Heard Museum. Fields said she liked the idea of placing her restaurant and market in a mixed-use building, which remind her of the Brooklyn neighborhood she grew up in where people lived over bodegas and restaurants.
The restaurant will open with takeout options and dine-in with reduced occupancy, in accordance with state health protocols during the pandemic, Fields said. There will be temperature checks at the restaurant entrance and an employee whose primary job is to sanitize surfaces, she added.
Fields plans to feature a simple menu with some Mediterranean and Caribbean influences — nods to her trip to Italy during culinary school and her Afro-Caribbean family roots. Fields, who’s a pescatarian, also plans to feature plenty of seafood and locally grown produce. Some of the menu items may include:
- Jerk tacos.
- Lobster mac n’ cheese.
- Grilled salmon and sweet potato mash.
- Clam chowder with sauteed scallops.
- Seafood beignet.
- Zuppa toscana.
- Flat bread pizza with goat cheese.
“I reached out to a couple local farmers to partner together to use their produce, that way we’re keeping the money in our own community,” Fields said. “COVID hit so many people so hard, closed so many restaurants, and local farms are grasping at straws to sell food to restaurants… Using local farmers makes the community stronger and people can eat local food.”
Chicken kabobs with saffron rice and tahini sauce made by chef Nik Fields, who will be opening a restaurant and market called “Chic Chef” in central Phoenix in early January of 2021. (Photo: David Wallace/The Republic)
For drinks, people can expect wine, beer, over-the-top bloody marys and various lemonades.
There will also be a private room to rent out for parties of no more than 12 guests. The room functions as a bourbon tasting room for her upcoming whiskey label, Queens Bourbon, bottled by Royalty Spirits, a Black and woman-owned distillery in Oregon that produces Rex Whiskey.
Keeping some her more famous clientele also in mind, there will be a private entrance and parking for those who want to keep a low profile.
Behind the cafe is a community garden Fields has already started, where she grows kale, swiss chard and fresh herbs. The restaurant will also be connected to a market where she will sell both her own line of products, as well as food products from other local businesses.
Chic Chef Company’s olive oils and vinegars are cold-pressed and barrelled in Modena, where she has her own olive farm, before they’re shipped to metro Phoenix for bottling. Her 18 months in Italy during culinary school left a lasting impression on her about the value of eating fresh and seasonally, but also taking the time to eat together as a family, Fields said.
For Fields, alone in Italy and her first time out of the country, food became a way to overcome difference in language and culture.
“Those are the same values I tried to instill in my own child so she can do that with her own children,” Fields said. “Because of my time there, I was able to create a culture within our family… Food gives us the opportunity to break down barriers and to build bonds.”
The Chic Chef Co cafe and marketplace are scheduled to open January 1, 2021.
Details: 2302 N. Central Ave., Phoenix. chicchefco.com. Follow Chic Chef Co on Instagram for updates at instagram.com/chicchefcocafe.
Reach the reporter at Priscilla.Totiya@azcentral.com. Follow @priscillatotiya on Twitter and Instagram.
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