Nina Compton, Chef de Cuisine, Scarpetta
A native of St. Lucia, Chef Nina Compton has trained in French, Caribbean and Italian kitchens (and she’s also a fellow Sandals alumna). She has worked under renowned Chef Daniel Boulud and now lives in Miami where she is the Chef de Cuisine for acclaimed chef Scott Conant at Scarpetta at the Fontainebleau on Miami Beach. A self-proclaimed “gnocchi queen,” Nina always keeps Maldon salt, good olive oil, lemon, calabrese chilies, and either pancetta or guanciale on hand. Nina strongly believes one should enjoy the moment whenever they are cooking, a belief that was recently put into practice during her time on Bravo’s hit cooking competition show, Top Chef. Nina did Miami extremely proud, coming in as the first runner up as well as being named the show’s “Fan Favorite.”
Other than your own, what’s your favorite restaurant in Miami right now?
I love going to Maccahalina, Bazaar at the SLS and The Dutch.
What is your all time favorite dish to eat?
I love a simple cheese plate with a crusty piece of bread and a nice glass of wine.
Who is your biggest culinary influence?
I have many influences from many chefs that I have worked for in the past. From Scott Conant I have taken a simplistic approach to food, from Daniel Boulud I have learnt how to be very focused and disciplined, from Norman Van Aken I have learnt to elevate Caribbean cooking to new heights.
If you had to pick one food item to best describe yourself, what would it be and why?
That’s a tough one. I think I would be a scotch bonnet pepper because I have heat but can also add different notes to a dish without overpowering it but can also be in the front as well.
What are your favorite and least favorite food trends right now?
My favorite trend is smoked things and my least favorite is the overkill of smoked things.
What do you consider to be your most successful dish cooked while on Top Chef? Any plans to add it to the Scarpetta menu?
I really enjoyed making the turtle meatball from the first challenge… I never really worked with turtle before. I don’t know if that specific dish will make it to the Scarpetta menu, but we’re currently planning an exclusive prix-fixe menu for fans of the show to be able to come in and experience some of the dishes I prepared on Top Chef. Stay tuned.
On Top Chef, you cooked alongside some amazing rising star chefs. How do you think Miami chefs compare to the nation’s best?
Miami has come a very long way and it continues to raise the bar year over year. Not only are many great chefs transplanting here but many local chefs are really making some amazing food here and it is very exciting.
Mitch & Mel