The Art of the Snack
Athleisure Mag|July 2020
This month's The Art of the Snack takes us to New Orleans to award-winning James Beard Foundation, winner, Food & Wine winner and BRAVO's Top Chef Season 11 runner up and Fan Favorite, Chef Nina Compton. This restaurateur is the chef and founder of Bywater American Bistro and Compère Lapin. We caught up with her to talk about her culinary journey, both restaurants, signature dishes and cocktails and a meal that you can recreate at home. We also talk with her about the challenges that she has faced in running this restaurant while navigating COVID-19 that has effected the hospitality industry.

ATHLEISURE MAG: Tell us about your culinary journey and how you came to creating Bywater American Bistro and Compère Lapin?

NINA COMPTON: I grew up in St Lucia and felt the warmth of people coming together over a meal and decided to study at The Culinary Institute of America. Determined to continue learning from the best, I went to work for Daniel Boulud at Restaurant Daniel in New York City. After too many cold winters I decided to move to Miami where I worked under Norman Van Aken and Scott Conant. With the influence of these gifted chefs, I learned technique and flavor combinations that I could use to cook the food I wanted. I participated in Season 11 of Top Chef and was runner up and Fan Favorite. After this experience, I decided it was time to open my own restaurant. An opportunity became available in New Orleans and I decided to go for it! I opened Compère Lapin in 2015 and Bywater American Bistro in 2018, all while falling in love with New Orleans, the Caribbean’s “Northernmost City.”

AM: You have a number of accolades including being a James Beard Foundation Best Chef: South 2018 and Food & Wine Best New Chefs 2017 just to name a few. What does receiving these awards mean to you?

NC: These awards mean a lot to me as a reward for keeping my nose down and working hard through the years. It’s kind of surreal to have your name mentioned in the same categories of chefs I’ve respected all of my life as well.

AM: How do you define your style of cooking?

NM: My style of cooking is the result of taking a St. Lucian girl, training her in classical French and Italian cuisine and technique then plopping her in the middle of the farms and seafood and culinary history of New Orleans. It’s a complete mixtape.

AM: As a chef, how is New Orleans infuse your food?

NM: In so many ways: The history of the food and drinks. The camaraderie of the culinary community here. From the corner po-boy shop to hundred-year-old bastions of Creole fine dining to the great Vietnamese influence, all you have to do is keep your eyes and mouth open.

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