Chef Nina is kicking butt on Top Chef, but could Saint Lucia care less?

Chef Nina Compton-Miller with fellow cheftestants in New Orleans

Chef Nina Compton-Miller with fellow cheftestants in New Orleans

It’s so great to switch on the TV every Wednesday night to watch Chef Nina Compton-Miller dominate the competition on BravoTV’s Top Chef New Orleans, and even better to hear the name of Saint Lucia being bandied about by famous names in the world of culinary celebrity.

Boy, just last week Chef Nina won the quick-fire challenge with a chilled watermelon soup, then smacked up her competitors in the farm-to-table challenge with a stuffed zucchini blossom which wowed the judges and earned her US$10,000. This week she created a hot sauce which the judges christened “the offical hot sauce of Nina-stan” and yet again ended up in the top three for the main challenge.

Winning the farm-to-table episode was obviously huge for Chef Nina. Ordinarily the show’s cool and straight-talking tough girl, she was visibly emotional describing the impact her father’s passion for agriculture had on the development of her culinary point of view, and for a moment we saw a flashback to our upcoming celebrity chef as a leggy teen, standing beside her smiling dad in a banana plantation back in the day.

Super stuff – for Nina and for Saint Lucia, even if her homeland’s agricultural sector is no longer what it was, nor even close to what it could be. Getting the word out about our island paradise through any marketing channel is always a great opportunity, since we depend on tourism for up to 80% of GDP, depending on who you believe, so name-recognition through a popular cable TV show like Top Chef should be grabbed by the gnocchi and made the most of.

Ironically though, the reaction at home to this literal daughter-of-the-soil’s success thus far has been minimal and lukewarm, as usual, some would add, because we’re a people who talk the talk of national pride, but very rarely can we be bothered to walk the walk. Apart from a few cut-and-pasted reviews online, there’s barely a smidgeon of hype about Top Chef Nina!

Even self-appointed media gurus who yap about there being no good news on our airwaves don’t seem to think this news is good enough to publicise. Compare our collective lack of interest to the national fervour and frenzy being caused in Jamaica by the Caribbean’s other current reality TV phenom, Tessanne Chin on NBC’s The Voice. Granted The Voice is a primetime network production with a bigger profile than Top Chef, but that’s not the point.

The reaction of the JA public and media has been excited, enthusiastic, supportive, loud; crowds of supporters watch the show en masse, online fans have figured out ways to get around the voting loopholes and Twitter is ablaze with excitement every Monday and Tuesday night, lauding their very own diva. Even bloody Usain Bolt turned up this week to support his obviously astonished homegirl.

So what’s the problem, Saint Lucia? Why is there no buzz about potentially our first US reality show winner? Some pundits say it’s our general malaise and laccadaisical attitude, others say it’s a political thing – after all Nina is the offspring of the Father of the Nation, so it might not look good for the en-rouge hordes to be too supportive. Maybe nobody stays up late for the ten o’clock time slot, now eleven since Daylight Savings Time reappeared a couple of weekends ago.

Whatever the reason, it’s about time Saint Lucians starting shouting about Chef Nina Compton’s excellent performance on Top Chef New Orleans, and drawing attention to our little island’s homegrown talent abroad. After all the government bluster about creative industries this year, here is a woman who is rising to the top of one of the most competitive and macho of all creative industries without losing her authenticity and Lucian-ness. I for one am keeping everything crossed that Chef Nina continues to
kick butt on and off TV, but also that her sleepy homeland wakes up and starts lauding our girl!

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