Masters of Cuisine: Lester Fields
Chef Lester Fields
Murphy’s Irish Pub
713 King Street
Old Town Alexandria
Main Photo Caption: Lester gets ready to enjoy some of his Traditional Irish Stew.
When did you first become interested in cooking?
When was in high school I worked at Manny’s Restaurant in Washington D.C. cleaning the kitchen area. I thought that the chef was awesome and that his food presentation was great and it seemed that people always had smiles on their faces when he cooked for them. I said to myself then that “this is what I want to do some day.” In 1980, I was given the chance to work in the kitchen at the Holiday Inn in D.C. I will never forget this because Ronald Reagan became president that year. This is where I started cooking. I started out making soups and sauces and working with Ben, the Banquet Manager, at the time. Ben knew that I had my hopes on becoming a full time cook and he passed that information on to the Chef and it all mushroomed from there. I have been at Murphy’s 10 years now.
Who have been your biggest inspirations in your career?
That would be Chef Steven White, because he gave me the tools needed to be the chef I am today. He taught me that there is more to being a chef than just cooking the food. Treating your employees well and by example is the most important. He also taught me how to cost out food and how to negotiate with the all of the food purveyors!
What are some qualities that you think a successful chef should have?
I think a successful chef needs to be good with people, receptive to feed back and be able to adapt to any given situation. Being a “multi-tasker”, not cracking under pressure and keeping the kitchen a safe place to work are good qualities to have as well. I do my best work under pressure!
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love to look at the smiles on the faces of the customers when they taste my food. If the customer is happy, I know I did my job.
What is your greatest joy?
My volunteer work. I like giving back simply because I will never forget that I was given a chance in 1980 to get into my line of work out of the caring from others. I have been volunteering my time catering at Christ Church right here in Old Town for the last eight years and that has inspired me to be the best that I can. I always get positive feedback from the members of the church and it’s great.
What do you feel sets your food apart from others in your field?
We have large portions of very tasty Irish/American pub cuisine at a very reasonable price. We also strive to cater to those with gluten intolerance.
If any chef in the world wanted to cook for you, who would you want that to be?
Rock Roheim – he has a unique style and I like his cooking.
With everything you have accomplished during your career, are you still learning as a chef?
You never stop learning. There is so much out there – presentation, fusion, ingredients, new cuisines – it never stops evolving. If you think you know it all, the only person you are fooling is yourself.
What is your guilty food pleasure?