St. Lucia native Chef Nina Compton is lighting up the New Orleans food scene

Chef Nina Compton fell in love with cooking as a child in Saint Lucia. She considered the service of food to be “the ultimate act of hospitality”.

This was her deciding factor when she pursued a career as a professional cook.

Compton currently lives in New Orleans, where she first discovered the city after filming Excellent chef. Award-winning chef James Beard now owns two restaurants – Bywater American Bistro and Compere Lapin.

The Saint Lucia native describes both restaurants as her children. “The two restaurants have different personalities and menus, but I hope you can tell they both come from the same parents,” Compton says.

Compère Lapin, the finer of the two, is currently part of American Express Members Week which runs from October 10-14, 2022. Members Week is a week-long celebration of consumers, cardholders and small businesses and traders.

We had the opportunity to chat with Compton about his fondest childhood memories in Saint Lucia and the dishes we must try while dining at his restaurant Compere Lapin.

Related: Local foods to try in Saint Lucia

TN: How did your upbringing in Saint Lucia influence your career as a chef?

CN: A ton ! I was the “sous-chef” for my mother and my grandmother while they prepared the family meals. At breakfast, Dad picked fruit from the garden and squeezed it for us: guavas, soursop, lime, mangoes, etc.

Saint Lucia is a small island with so many flavors and I got to experience so many of them. My family – mum, dad, grandma and five children – hosted “cocktail parties” on the veranda for holidays and special occasions.

Once I asked mom if I could make the food and I was hooked. I saw serving food as the ultimate act of hospitality and decided to pursue cooking professionally.

TN: What drew you to New Orleans to ultimately call the city home?

CN: I first discovered New Orleans when I went there to film Excellent chef. Even in this very controlled environment, the warmth of the people, the music and the architecture reminded me of Saint Lucia. After meeting with a mutual friend, my husband asked me 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 the owner of two restaurants, where do you find inspiration to create the menu for each?

CN: I don’t have kids, but I equate it with what I think parenthood could be. The two restaurants have different personalities and menus, but I hope you can tell they are both from the same parents.

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 Members Week is here. What should guests order from Compère Lapin?

CN: Goat curry with sweet potato gnocchi and roasted cashews. I didn’t think we’d sell much when I put it on our opening menu in 2015, but it’s been our best-selling dish since day one.

TN: What are your top three things to do in New Orleans that you think everyone who visits should experience at least once?

CN: Oh man, only three?

Good weather :

  1. Stroll through the French Quarter, soak up the architecture and history, grab a beignet or cocktail, and keep moving.

  2. Pick up a Po Boy and picnic in Crescent Park, right on the Mississippi River.

  3. Take the tram to the Garden District and have lunch at Commander’s Palace. Walk around the neighborhood and the cemeteries.

Weather not so good:

  1. Go to StudioBe in Bywater.

  2. The National WWII Museum is amazing.

  3. Visit the New Orleans Museum of Art or the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

You can follow Nina on Instagram here.

Follow his restaurants on social networks: Compère Lapin and Bywater American Bistro.

From October 10-14, eligible American Express Card members who sign up for the Member Week offer will receive a $25 credit after spending $75 or more in a single purchase at Compère Lapin (up to 2x) by December 8, 2022.

Related: Issa Rae and Delta Team Up to Launch Travel-Inspired Collection at Los Angeles Fashion Week

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