St. Lucia-born Chef Nina Compton posted a subtle message on her Facebook page during a pretty tumultuous week in America. The photo from inside the kitchen of her New Orleans restaurant Compère Lapin in her chef’s whites had one simple line: “I am an immigrant.”
Maybe the chef, known for culinary backflips that take diners from the Caribbean to France down to Italy and back to New Orleans in one dish, just wanted to remind people that our country, much like her own menu, is strengthened by diversity. Whether they know it or not, New Orleans diners seem to agree: Compton’s neighborhood restaurant was deemed New Orleans Restaurant of the Year by the Times-Picayune.
Compton, who was a fixture in Miami’s culinary scene, working with chef Scott Conant at Scarpetta, returns to the Magic City for the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. The former “Top Chef” Season 11 finalist will be at Best of the Best as well as hosting the Heart of New Orleans Dinner along with David Kinch, Donald Link and Julia Doyne.
Before she returns to her old stomping grounds, Compton tells us what she sees cooking in the culinary world’s kitchen.
If you were on Death Row, what’s your last meal?
Ribeye, tartiflette ( a dish from the alps using potatoes and reblochon cheese) and a glass of Kruger rose.
Tell us about your biggest kitchen disaster?
I had crazy night partying and put frozen pizza in the oven. I woke up coughing and surrounded by black smoke. My apartment smelt like burnt pizza for a month.
What do you consider the hottest food trends of 2017?
What’s the best meal you ever ate?
Best meal was a Eleven Madison Park , the stand out was the tomato consommé, so many layers of flavor. Very thoughtful meal.
Where do you like to eat when you come to Miami?
Macchialina, The Dutch , Puerta Sagua, Alter, Edge, Pubbelly.
What do you think about Miami’s food scene?
Miami has exploded and I think has some of the best restaurants currently. Diners now are more open minded and chefs are able to express themselves more and are embraced. This is a beautiful time to be a chef in Miami, the bar has been raised.
What’s one cookbook you’d never throw out?
Norman Van Aken’s New World Cuisine – working for him and understanding his passion for Caribbean and Latin flavors and seeing how he elevated humble ingredients that I grew up with.
What’s comfort food to you?
Curried anything -goat , chicken , shrimp and the list goes on – nice and spicy!
How do you stay in shape when your life revolves around food?
Believe it or not, picking up pots and pans keeps you very active. But if I do have time, I like tennis or horse back riding.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Wine and cheese.
What’s your favorite thing about the South Beach Wine and Food Festival? Cooking with great chefs and letting loose.