The Art of New Traditions
For our next #WomenCrushingIt we’re introducing an icon in the kitchen and winner of the 2018 James Beard Award for ‘Best Chef: South.’ Nina Compton is one of the most impressive chefs in the country, and she’s been uniting cuisines and cultures throughout her career. Originally from St. Lucia, she started her journey in the kitchens of many notable restaurants in Miami, and earned accolades at every stop.
Nina then opened her first solo restaurant in New Orleans, Compère Lapin. There she made an art out of intertwining St. Lucia, her love of French and Italian cuisine and the indigenious ingredients found throughout Louisiana.
Nina is a visionary and a woman who focuses on the epicurean experience of food. She’s crushing the food and restaurant industry, creating successful and rave worthy restaurants, while also serving as a Culinary Ambassador for St. Lucia. Her most recent venture, Bywater American Bistro, is shaping the way chefs explore their culinary curiosities and continue to challenge themselves with bold cuisine and bigger dreams.
Meet Nina Compton
Andréa: When the pandemic subsides, who are you raising your first glass with and why?
Nina: My Mum. She's in St. Lucia and we haven't been able to see each other this whole time. I can't wait!
Andréa: How is the 2021 International Women's Day theme #ChooseToChallenge meaningful to you? What has challenged you as a woman of color in a male-dominated industry?
Nina: Looking back, there were never a lot of me in the kitchen. I'm encouraged today that this is changing and the young women of color have that encouragement to challenge for any job they want.
Andréa: Who has inspired you to break the rules or think beyond them as a woman in your industries?
Nina: Leah Chase (known as the Queen of Creole Cuisine) told me I have to make it as a chef and restaurateur to set the stage for the next generation like she has for me and my peers.
Andréa: How would you define your tribe or sisterhood that has supported you during your path?
Nina: I think the combination of being around successful friends as well as those working hard and coming up creates a nice balance.
Andréa: What advice would you give to women who want to pursue nontraditional careers that combine their work and passions?
Nina: Do what makes you happy with realistic expectations of what the future could hold. I went to the best culinary school in the states, but there was still years of learning and refining my craft until I was ready to own my own restaurant.
Andréa: How has the pandemic changed your work, industry and outlook?
Nina: It turned the restaurant industry upside down. However, while we were shut down, I was able to slow down and work through things that required that time. When we reopened, we were able to reset some systems in the restaurants which made for a more equitable environment. The outlook I i think is very bright once we get past the pandemic.
Andréa: What are you most excited about in your work right now?
Nina: The changing of the seasons is always fun because I get to change the menu!
Andréa: Which wine varieties or styles are most often on your table? Do you have a favorite MSC wine, and a recipe, cuisine or mood to pair with it?
Nina: We have 9 months of warm weather here, so most often it’s the McBride Sisters Sparkling Rosé. It’s great with fresh warm weather foods like crabmeat salad and also stands up to a spicy ceviche.
Andréa: One of our initiatives this year is content and education on the African Diaspora. Where are your family’s roots and how has that influenced your cooking?
Nina: My father was from Canouan and my mother St. Lucia so Caribbean has had the greatest influence on my cooking. St. Lucia particularly with African and Indian influences