'Top Chef' Star Nina Compton Brings Caribbean Flavor to New Orleans' Compère Lapin

“I want our guests to be like, ‘Oh my gosh I can’t wait to have that curried goat tonight,'" chef Compton says.

After competing on the 11th season of Top Chef, chef Nina Compton of Compère Lapin faced another challenge in winning over local diners in New Orleans.

“When I first thought about opening my restaurant here, I was very nervous,” she told Where Hollywood Eats. “New Orleans is a heavyweight culinary destination and when I came here, it was this overwhelming response. People were hugging me in the street, telling me, ‘Thank you for moving here. I watched you on television and we can’t wait to see you open your new restaurant.’” 

Compère Lapin means “brother rabbit” in French and is a traditional Caribbean and Creole folktale. Compton tells THR that she “wanted to bring the Caribbean to Louisiana and let people know my background.”

“The way we cook here is very simple,” she said. “A couple of ingredients but all of those ingredients shine together.”

While Compton says she wants her guests to feel “comfortable” while dining with her, she also tries to “challenge” their taste buds. “I want my guests to leave challenged a little bit,” she said. “Have them try something like ox tail or guava curry or something different where they’d be like, ‘Oh, that sounds like fun. Maybe I’ll have one of those.’”

With more and more Hollywood stars heading south for film projects, Compton has welcomed actors like Emma Roberts and Tom Cruise as guests at her restaurant.

“Tom Cruise came in. I thought it was a joke,” she explained. “I’m like, ‘OK, I’m not going to believe it until he actually sits in our restaurant.’ He came and actually sat at this table over here and I kind of geeked out a little bit. I think he had the tuna tartare and a chicken. He kept it very simple.”

At the end of the day, the chef hopes customers walk away from Compère Lapin already thinking about their next visit. “I want our guests to be like, ‘Oh my gosh I can’t wait to have that curried goat tonight.’ I want them to feel that moment where you have that craveable sensation where it’s like, ‘I want to come back,’” she says.