Top Chef, the cooking competition on Bravo, has made stars out of many of its contestants. Past seasons have given us Carla Hall, Jeff McInnis, and Fabio Viviani, making the reality show a talent incubator for chefs with a recipe for charisma and talent to rise to the top in the culinary fame game.
This season, Nina Compton is proving a formidable competitor on the show. A native of Saint Lucia, Compton left her island home to study at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. After graduating in 2001, she worked for some of the biggest names in the industry, including Daniel Boulud in New York City and Norman Van Aken in Miami.
But it was the opportunity to work with Scott Conant at his soon-to-open Scarpetta at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach that was the catalyst for success. After rising from sous-chef to executive chef at Conant's Miami outpost, she received a call from a group of TV producers asking her if she was interested in filming a cooking show. "They didn't reveal which show it was for until after the first interview," she says. Immediately, she asked her boss for advice. Conant, a Food Network celebrity in his own right, told Compton to be herself. "I took his advice, and that was the best thing I could ever do."
Although filming has ended and Compton is back in the Scarpetta kitchen, her onscreen doppelgänger is still strongly in the running for the Top Chef win. Whether or not Compton brings the title of Top Chef home to Miami, the self-proclaimed gnocchi queen has a bright future. She's trying to take the advice she gave her fellow competitors: "Just enjoy your moment." Right now, it's Compton's moment to enjoy.
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