When Top Chef 's Nina Compton left Miami Beach's Scarpetta in June 2014, it seemed she would next open a restaurant in the 305. Well, half of that assumption turned out to be true.
Turns out, the talented and charming "fan favorite" left Miami to open a restaurant in New Orleans. When the St. Lucia native announced her move to the Big Easy after spending 14 years in Miami, she said it was a bittersweet decision. I'm leaving at a time when Miami is really being recognized for its food scene. There are so many fantastic Miami restaurants, and I'm happy I was a part of that."
Though Compton had never visited the Crescent City before taping the Bravo culinary competition she was smitten with its food and culture. "My husband and I were going to go there for our honeymoon," she tells Miami New Times, "Once I was there, I was surprised how much New Orleans reminded me of St. Lucia, with its blend of French, English, and African culture. The food and music are just amazing."
Then, while looking for locations for a restaurant of her own, the chef started considering New Orleans as an option. “As I worked on concepts for my restaurant and looked at locations, I kept getting drawn to New Orleans. When the opportunity to partner with Provenance Hotels and do it here arose, it was kismet. It’s a one-a-kind-place with amazing indigenous products and an international influence in all artistic aspects. I’m very excited to be working in a city this vibrant, unique and iconic and to do it with a partner that is as dedicated as I am to honoring New Orleans’ traditions and history."
The chef, who just settled into her new home in the Bywater neighborhood, just outside the French Quarter, hasn't even fully unpacked before setting to work on her new project with details emerging on NOLA.com.
Nina Compton in the Big Easy.
Courtesy of Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery
According to the site, Compton's still-unnamed restaurant is opening at the Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery at 535 Tchoupitoulas St. in the city's Warehouse Arts District. The former Ambassador Hotel reopens in April 2015, after undergoing a major renovation by Portland-based Provenance Hotels. The building itself was built in 1854 as a coffee warehouse. It then became a ships' chandlery, providing stores to ships sailing out of the busy Port of New Orleans.
Accommodations at the Old No. 77 feature exposed brick walls and a range of very NOLA-centric amenities that include a Get it Now button where you can ask for just about anything from a spare toothbrush to a bottle of Champagne and a spiritual menu that includes a library of faith-based books in any religion. There's also a spiritual menu for dogs, with pets being pampered with everything from treats to a pet psychic on call. Rooms at the Old No. 77 start at a reasonable $199 per night.
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Compton's restaurant is scheduled to open early summer 2015, with dishes that reflect the chef's Caribbean roots, Italian experience, and French technique. Compton plans on utilizing the products and ingredients of Louisiana in her cooking and is exploring the city's farms and restaurants in preparation. “Beyond all the great restaurants and bars, I’ve been hitting the local farmers markets and meeting with tons of purveyors, from fisherman to coffee roasters. My inspirations are eclectic but when it comes to ingredients, I definitely want to spotlight as much local product as possible.”
In case you want to visit Compton's new restaurant and make a weekend out of it, Tales of the Cocktail, the annual spirited festival of libations, returns to New Orleans on July 15-19, with most of Miami's bartenders flying to the Big Easy to learn about the latest trends and techniques. Now might be a good time to make your summer vacation plans.