Female Chefs and Restaurant Owners That Have a Big Impact on Local Cuisine

International Women’s Day is coming up on March 8, a time traditionally spent appreciating all the women in the world and their hard work in all aspects of life. Here in New Orleans, we are known for our outstanding restaurants and their chefs, but often overlooked among all their male peers are the female chefs of the city. It only seems right to learn more about some of the wonderful female chefs during this time.

Nina Compton, Compere Lapin & Bywater American Bistro

St. Lucian native Nina Compton is Chef/Owner of gastronomic gems Compère Lapin and BABs in New Orleans, along with her newest concept Nina’s Creole Cottage in Caesar’s New Orleans. In 2024, the savvy Chef will open ShaSha Lounge: Social Aid and Pleasure Club – an NFT collaboration with top Chefs from around the U.S.  Since her flagship restaurant, Compère Lapin, opened in 2015, the restaurant has garnered critical acclaim – both nationally and locally – for Compton’s one-of-a-kind Caribbean-inspired Louisiana cuisine with dishes like Curried Goat with sweet potato gnocchi, Blackened Pig Ears with smoked aioli, and Broiled Shrimp with spicy chili butter and cilantro. Sister restaurant BABs (formerly Bywater American Bistro) has been touted as one of the city’s best restaurants and showcases house-made pastas and other ingredient-driven fare. Compton has been name-checked across the globe and, in 2018, was named “Best Chef: South” by The James Beard Foundation.

Melissa Araujo, Alma Cafe

James Beard: Best Chef South 2024 semi-finalist, Melissa Araujo is the Chef/Owner of Alma Café in New Orleans. A native of Honduras, Araujo pays tribute to her grandmother at her award-winning restaurant where she serves up dishes like BaleadasPollo ChocoPupusas, and more. Araujo has worked for some of New Orleans’ most acclaimed chefs and incorporates her passion for cooking and celebration of Honduran culture into every aspect of Alma’s dining experience.

Sophina Uong, Mister Mao

James Beard: Best Chef South 2024 semi-finalist, Cambodian-American Chef Sophina Uong has been fascinated by Southern cuisine since she started cooking 25 years ago at some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most acclaimed restaurants. In 2021, the “Chopped” Grill Master Champion opened her first solo restaurant, Mister Mao, in New Orleans. Chef Uong melds the flavors and ingredients of Laos, Cambodia, and other Asian Pacific islands with Southern technique and tradition, resulting in bold, flavorful “inauthentic” cuisine. Dishes, which change regularly, include Pani Puri with turmeric potato masala, tamarind chutney and fiery mint water and Kashmiri Fried Chicken. Since opening, Uong has earned raves and accolades for her out-of-the-box creative cuisine and is also known for her incredible advocacy and community support; by hosting a famed series of “Guest Chef Pop-Ups” whereby she invites lesser-known Chefs, food trucks, and other industry folks to take over the Mister Mao kitchen for a one-night-only dinner with proceeds going back to the guest chef and/or charity of choice.

Kathryn Searcy, Costera

Kathryn Searcy is the Chef de Cuisine at the Coastal Spanish restaurant – Costera. Fusing Louisiana’s finest produce with Gulf seafood, the restaurant offers a communal dining experience blending modernity with comfort. From the simplicity of Pan con Tomate with roasted garlic aioli to the Braised Lamb Shank with salsa verde and Manchego, each dish tells a story of flavor. With a passion for creating dishes from authentic flavors, Kathryn’s dedication to the culinary scene redefines both Louisiana and Coastal Spanish cuisine in the Uptown neighborhood restaurant.

Help Keep Big Easy Magazine Alive

Hey guys!

Covid-19 is challenging the way we conduct business. As small businesses suffer economic losses, they aren’t able to spend money advertising.

Please donate today to help us sustain local independent journalism and allow us to continue to offer subscription-free coverage of progressive issues.

Thank you,
Scott Ploof
Big Easy Magazine

Share this Article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *