She was knocked down, but Rita Fields is back in business
Published 5:00 am Wednesday, December 15, 2021
Rita Fields started cooking at the age of five and hasn’t stopped.
“My grandma drug a chair up to the stove for me to stand on when I was five,” Fields said. “Back then there were no excuses. If you could read, if you could talk, you could cook, especially in my family.”
Fields grew up in Elton in a multi-generational household of 12. The first lesson was scrambled eggs. Then one day, when her grandmother was sick, she told Rita exactly what to do to make soup, starting with “take the meat out of the refrigerator and cut up an onion….”
Email newsletter signup
“The kitchen was a gathering place. We sang in the kitchen. We danced to Zydeco in the kitchen,” she said. “We might not have had everything, but one thing we had plenty of was meat and vegetables. My daddy was a butcher and he farmed. I remember plenty of pork, chicken and field peas. We did not go to the store to buy meat or vegetables.”
Fields had a restaurant at Hebert’s Landing in Big Lake, Rita’s Creole Family Kitchen. COVID slowed business but didn’t stop it. Many regulars ordered “to go,” meals rather than dining on site. The hurricanes destroyed the restaurant completely, so she purchased a food truck and fed the homeless and military for free immediately after the hurricanes. She received some contracts to feed employees of certain companies helping to clean up and rebuild. She didn’t know what the future held. So much had changed in Cameron Parish because of the hurricanes.
“I shifted this way (Lake Charles), but the honest truth is, I didn’t know if we could hold on,” she said. “I even prayed about it, asking God if this was His way of telling me it was time to shut it down.”
Then she made contact with Cathy Denison-Robert, executive and founder of Business & Workforce Recovery Solutions. Robert told Fields about grant money Fields didn’t know was available, and helped her complete the paperwork.
“I remember us talking about the Bible verse, ‘my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.’”
On Saturday, Dec. 11, Rita and her husband, Joe Fields, celebrated a grand opening of Rita’s Creole Family Kitchen at 3922 Ryan St., the old Chastain’s location. The occasion was attended by representatives from the mayor’s office, Singer Tangelia Harrington, Flashback Band, friends and family.
It’s just the beginning of her comeback. Though her focus is to cook, serve and deliver good ol’ downhome cooked meals, what she describes as soul food, the new kitchen has her thinking about branching out. For one thing, she’ll make sure to have healthy options on the menu, maybe KETO, in addition to her fried ribs, mixed greens and smothered okra (a few best sellers). She even hopes to package her signature pralines and distribute them. Three food trucks will sell three different fares, smoothies, seafood and home-cooked favorites.
Do you have a favorite home cook or local chef? Please share your ideas by emailing rita.lebleu@american press.com for consideration. Or, call 337-494-4072.