Chef Nina’s Compère Lapin Among the Best in the World

An article in the Huffington post by Alyssa Bird has listed Saint Lucian born Chef Nina Compton’s Compère Lapin restaurant among “the best new restaurants around the world.” “Compère Lapin, set on the ground floor of the Warehouse District’s Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery, marries the flavors of her native St. Lucia, her experience cooking French and Italian cuisine, and ingredients from the surrounding Gulf area,” writes Bird.

Chef Nina Compton became a household name here in Saint Lucia and garnered much international attention when she competed on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” in 2013. Compton didn’t win; she came in second. But the viewers, charmed by her smile, her Saint Lucian warmth and accent combined with an uncanny prowess in the kitchen, voted her fan favourite.

Chef Nina Compton moved to New Orleans earlier this year to open her first restaurant.

Chef Nina Compton moved to New Orleans earlier this year to open her first restaurant.

At the time, she was the chef de cuisine at Scarpetta, celebrity chef Scott Conant’s Miami restaurant. However, her time on “Top Chef” is why people now stop her on the streets and asks for pictures and autographs. It’s why she received offers to write books and open restaurants. And why she was named Saint Lucia’s first culinary ambassador. It’s also why Compton was given the opportunity to move to New Orleans, where she and husband Larry Miller opened Compère Lapin back in June of this year.

A few rabbit images invoke the restaurant’s namesake, a mischievous Br’er Rabbit-like character immortalized in Saint Lucian folklore. Chef Nina Compton combines her Saint Lucian upbringing with her background in French and Italian cuisine on the menu to make flavorful and unique dishes. Curried goat, Compton’s comfort food, is on the menu with plantain gnocchi. There is also dirty rice arancini and corn basted with jerk-seasoned butter and topped with crispy chicken skins.

“I have never been to St. Lucia, the island where Nina Compton was born. But after years of consuming tourist propaganda about the Caribbean, I can imagine (or so I think) what it must be like. And my first impulse, when eating at Compton’s new restaurant Compère Lapin, is to latch onto the exotic, tropical flavors” wrote Todd A. Price for the Times – Picayune.

He goes on: “Bits of conch hide in the crisp croquettes, stacked two-by-two like Lincoln Logs and scattered with crunch salt crystals. The grilled corn, a play on Mexican elote with aioli smeared across the top, is charred and rubbed with jerk seasoning. A tingling halo of heat hovers around many of Compton’s dishes. The dishes even have their own color palette. The green tones are creamy, like the flesh of an avocado. The pici pasta, tossed with diced squash and nuggets of lobster, has the pale red shade of a boiled crustacean’s shell. Around the glistening snapper topped with citrus, chives and curling fennel is a swirl of orange oil, which has the bright hue of the kind of tropical sunset seen only in paintings.”

 Inside the restaurant where the Caribbean meets France and Italy.

Inside the restaurant where the Caribbean meets France and Italy.

Chef Nina Compton’s philosophy for Compère Lapin: Meals aren’t about trends, shock value, or opulence. “Meals are about moments, memories and those who surround you at your table. We believe in the complexity of simplicity, and the power of pure flavors. Our histories, vast and varied, deserve to be memorialized and romanticized by dishes that at once remind us of home and transport us to somewhere new. We don’t make food for everyone else, we make food for you.”

 

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