Photo Credit: Photo Cred: Denny Culbert
St. Lucian Native, Chef Nina Compton Is Lighting Up New Orleans' Culinary Scene
Chef Nina Compton fell in love with cooking as a child growing up in St. Lucia. She viewed serving food as the “ultimate act of hospitality.”
That was her deciding factor when pursuing a career as a professional cook.
Compton currently lives in New Orleans, where she first experienced the city after filming Top Chef. The James Beard award-winning chef is now the owner of two restaurants — Bywater American Bistro and Compere Lapin.
The St. Lucian native describes the two restaurants as being her children. “Both restaurants have different personalities and menus, but hopefully you can tell they’re both from the same parents,” says Compton.
Compere Lapin, the more refined of the two, is currently part of American Express’ Member Week taking place from October 10th to 14th, 2022. Member Week is a week-long celebration of consumers, small business Card Members, and merchants.
We had a chance to catch up with Compton about her sweetest memories growing up in St. Lucia and the dishes we have to try when dining at her restaurant Compere Lapin.
Related: Local Foods To Try In St. Lucia
TN: How did your upbringing in St. Lucia influence your career as a chef?
NC: A ton! I was the “sous chef” to my mum and granny while they prepared family meals. For breakfast, dad would pick fruit from the garden and juice it for us: guavas, soursop, lime, mangoes, etc.
St. Lucia is a small island with so many flavors and I got to experience so much. My family — mum, dad, granny, and five kids — would have “cocktail parties” on the veranda for holidays and special occasions.
Once I asked mum if I could make the food and I was hooked. I saw serving food as an ultimate act of hospitality and decided to pursue cooking professionally.
TN: What was it about New Orleans that drew you in to eventually call the city home?
NC: I first experienced New Orleans when I visited to film Top Chef. Even in that very controlled environment, the warmth of the people, the music, and the architecture reminded me of St. Lucia. After a meeting with a mutual friend, my husband asked what I thought about moving from Miami Beach, where we were living at the time.
I replied, “Absolutely not.”
He asked, “What about New Orleans?” And I jumped at the chance.
TN: As an owner of two restaurants, where do you find inspiration when creating the menu for each one?
NC: I don’t have children, but I equate it to how I think parenthood might be. Both restaurants have different personalities and menus, but hopefully, you can tell they’re both from the same parents.
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The location and style of these two are different. Bywater American Bistro is more of a neighborhood restaurant and more casual, while Compere Lapin is in the Warehouse District/CBD and is a little more refined.
TN: American Express’ Member Week is here — what should diners order when at Compere Lapin?
NC: Curried goat with sweet potato gnocchi and roasted cashews. I didn’t think we would sell very much when I put it on our opening menu in 2015, but it has been our best-selling dish since day one.
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TN: What are your top three things to do in New Orleans that you think everyone visiting should experience at least once?
NC: Oh man, only three?
- Wander through the French Quarter, soaking in the architecture and history, grab a beignet, or a cocktail, and keep moving.
- Pick up a Po Boy and picnic in Crescent Park right on the Mississippi River.
- Ride the streetcar out to the Garden District and have lunch at Commander’s Palace. Wander the neighborhood and cemeteries.
- Go to StudioBe in Bywater.
- The National WWII Museum is incredible.
- Visit the New Orleans Museum of Art or the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.
You can keep up with Nina on Instagram here.
Follow her restaurants on social: Compere Lapin and Bywater American Bistro.
From October 10-14, eligible American Express Card members who enroll in the Member Week offer will get a $25 statement credit after spending $75 or more in a single purchase at Compere Lapin (up to 2x) by December 8th, 2022.
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