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20 Questions

My NOLA: 20 Questions with Nina Compton

Top Chef finalist Nina Compton shares her favorite things to eat, drink, see, and do in New Orleans. Plus, learn more about her new restaurant, Compère Lapin.

Chef Nina Compton
Photo: Elsa Hahne

In a recent interview with Forbes Travel Guide about her move to New Orleans, chef Nina Compton couldn’t help but gush.

“I haven’t had a single bad meal since I moved here,” she said. “I haven’t had a single thing where I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s okay.’ Every single thing is so good!”

Compton first visited New Orleans as a contestant on BRAVO’s Top Chef. During her time on the show, she completely fell in love with the city.

Compton was a finalist and fan favorite on Top Chef, so locals were thrilled when she was offered the opportunity to open a restaurant, her first, at the Old No. 77 Hotel and Chandlery in the Warehouse District. The restaurant, Compère Lapin, which opens June 2, is highly anticipated by foodies from around the country.

“I knew right away that New Orleans was where I wanted to be,” Compton says. “The culinary community here is unlike any place I’ve been and I’m thrilled to become a part of it.”

Compton is originally from St. Lucia and has compared New Orleans’ colors, smells, flavors, and laid-back lifestyle to her Caribbean home. Even the restaurant’s name, Compère Lapin, which translates to “brother rabbit,” comes from a Caribbean folk tale about a mischievous rabbit. The restaurant will blend the flavors of her St. Lucian childhood with her vast experience and training in French and Italian cooking styles. She’ll do all this while making the most of Louisiana and Gulf Coast seafood, produce, and spices.

Compton began her formal culinary training at the Culinary Institute of America and has worked at renowned restaurants such as New York City’s Daniel and Miami’s Palme D’or, Casa Casuarina, and Scarpetta, where she was appointed Chef de Cuisine. New Orleans has been quick to welcome Compton with open arms, just as she has been quick to immerse herself in the city’s unique food, music, and culture.

Snapper Crudo at Compère Lapin (Photo: Sara Essex Bradley)

20 Questions with Nina Compton

1. Who is your favorite New Orleanian, dead or alive, real or imagined?

Leah Chase. She reminds me of my grandmother. And to see what a strong, powerful, and gentle women she is… I really admire her.

2. What first brought you to New Orleans?

I have always wanted to come here, but filming Top Chef here made me fall in love with it. But moving here to open my first restaurant? Dreams do come true!

3. In your opinion – what’s the best neighborhood in New Orleans?

I always wanted to live in the Garden District gingerbread Victorian homes, but I decided to live in the Bywater and really enjoy it. I’m glad I moved there.

4. City Park or Audubon Park?

City Park.

5. Describe the best meal you’ve eaten in New Orleans?

I know it sounds silly, but everything here is so amazing here, so that’s hard to choose!

6. Where’s your favorite brunch spot?

Booty’s.

7. What’s your favorite po-boy? Where do you go to get it?

Gene’s hot sausage and cheese po-boy.

8. You’ve got friends visiting and it’s their first time in New Orleans – where are you taking them?

My mom is coming here for a week, so we will try and squeeze everything in: from beignets, to carriage rides around town, lots of eating at Emeril’s, Commander’s, Shaya, La Petite Grocery, Coquette… Then The National World War II Museum, Crescent Park, taking the streetcar down St. Charles, then end off at Frenchmen Street, go to Dat Dog, and listen to some jazz!

9. What’s your favorite neighborhood bar?

Bacchanal.

10.What is your favorite New Orleans cocktail?

Sazerac.

11. Snowball or Daiquiri? Where from and what flavor?

Snowball: Hansen’s satsuma/ginger or brown pelican.

12. Best spot to see live music?

New Orleans Jazz Market.

13. Favorite New Orleans musician or band?

Irvin Mayfield, Jr.

14. Favorite New Orleans Festival?

I haven’t been here long enough, but I did experience French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest for the first time!

15. Favorite Mardi Gras parade?

Tbd; I’ve never been to a parade yet!

16. Where do you shop in New Orleans?

Rouses or farmers markets are always fun. Allison at Rouses in the CBD is a very nice face to see.

17. What is your favorite New Orleans museum?

The National World War II Museum.

18. Where do you go to watch The Saints play?

Cannot wait to wear black and gold and go to my first game.

19. Describe New Orleans in one word.

Magical.

20. When was the last time you fell in love with New Orleans and why?

I know it sounds cheesy, but I fall in love each day! I always discover something new and beautiful: the buildings, people, food, and spirit.

WhyNOLA

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