There is certainly no shortage of incredible women around New Orleans – this list could go on and on. To celebrate International Women’s Day 2017, here are just five of New Orleans premier female food and beverage power players that include chefs, bartenders, sommeliers and restaurateurs making a difference on the Crescent City’s culinary landscape.
Nina Compton, Compere Lapin Compère Lapin Chef/Owner
Nina Compton has more than 15 years of experience manning some of the finest restaurants in the country. Upon completion of secondary school in England, Nina Compton returned to her home in St. Lucia where she decided to pursue her dream of becoming a chef. Her parents arranged an internship with a friend’s hotel in Jamaica where Nina fell in love with the creativity and camaraderie of the kitchen. Leaving the cozy, warm winters of the Caribbean, Nina chose to move to chilly Hyde Park, NY to study at The Culinary Institute of America. In 2001, Nina began her professional journey at Daniel in New York City, working and continuing her culinary education alongside world renowned chef/ restaurateur Daniel Boulud. After moving to Miami, she joined Norman Van Aken at his namesake restaurant Norman’s and then Philippe Ruiz located at Palme d’Or. Eventually Nina moved to Casa Casuarina, a private club and boutique hotel in Miami Beach where she rose from Sous Chef to Executive Chef of the highly acclaimed property. With the excitement of the renovation of Fontainebleau Miami Beach in 2008 combined with the chance to work with Scott Conant at Scarpetta, Nina leapt at the chance to join the pre-opening team as Sous Chef and went on to be appointed Chef de Cuisine. During a star turn on BRAVO’s Top Chef, on which she was a finalist and fan favorite, Nina fell in love with the Crescent City. An opportunity with Provenance Hotels lured Nina to New Orleans where she opened her first solo restaurant, Compère Lapin, at the Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery in the Warehouse District. Since opening in June 2015, Compère Lapin has received critical acclaim including a rave review in The New York Times, Top 10 Winner of Playboy’s Best New Bars in America 2016 and “Best New Restaurant” nods by New Orleans Magazine and Times-Picayune.
A native of Hyde Park, NY, with roots in Georgia and Virginia, Abigail Gullo first discovered her love for mixology when her grandfather taught her how to make a Manhattan when she was only seven years old. As a young adult, she moved to Ireland to work in theatre, and quickly became known for transforming her Dublin apartment into a cocktail salon, crafting libations for friends and colleagues. An experienced off-Broadway singer and actress in New York City, theatre teacher by trade, and graduate of George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, Gullo switched careers to professional bartending in 2009 while living in Manhattan. Around that time, local spirits industry legend LeNell Smothers nominated Gullo as a member for the New York chapter of the charity-driven society Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails. From 2010 to 2012, Gullo served as Head Bartender at Fort Defiance in Brooklyn, while helping to open The Beagle in the East Village in 2011. As a result of her frequent travels to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail, and roster of mixology awards, Gullo landed the job as head bar chef for Sobou; then the newest venture from the Commander’s Family of Restaurants in the Crescent City. In 2015, Gullo was tapped by award-winning bartender Ricky Gomez, to join the beverage team at Compère Lapin, where she worked alongside Gomez in developing the restaurant’s cocktail menu. Gullo’s original cocktails have been recognized in numerous national and international competitions as well as in the media. Her margarita won People’s Choice at the 2010 Tales of the Cocktail, and her drinks have been featured in The New York Times, Imbibe, Garden & Gun,In The Mix, and Food & Wine magazine among others. Gullo was named Eater NOLA’s“Bartender of the Year” in 2014; winner of Heaven Hill Liquor.com’s “Bartender of the Year” 2016; and winner of Tullimore Dew’s “Best Bartender Stories.”
Lu Brow, Beverage Director at DTB is an expert of historic cocktails. Brow has extensive experience as a mixologist, having studied with Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh, author of Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails and Dale DeGroff, known as “The King of Cocktails” and founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail. Brow served as Bar Chef at Café Adelaide & The Swizzle Stick Bar in the French Quarter in 2005, part of the Commander’s Palace Family of Restaurants in New Orleans. In her time there she introduced the “Bar Chef Table,” a concept modeled after the chef’s table, where the menu is paired with unique cocktails served in tasting-sized glasses, at a bar right next to your table. Her talent has since been recognized in Santé Magazine’s 2006 Spirits Hospitality Award, which honors restaurants that exhibit a high level of professional standards in spirits, service and hospitality. Then in 2014, she migrated to the recently reopened Brennan’s to create their beverage program. Now, as Beverage Director for the soon-to-open modern Southern Louisiana concept DTB, which stands for Down the Bayou, Brow will continue to use her talent and ingenuity behind the bar to wow guests and critics alike with creative concoctions using Louisiana ingredients.
Elizabeth (Liz) Williams is the Founder and President of the Southern Food & Beverage Museum (SoFAB) in New Orleans, which falls under the umbrella organization of National Food & Beverage Foundation (NatFAB) – anonprofit educational and cultural organization dedicated to the discovery, understanding and celebration of food, drink and its related culture and folklife in America and the world. Liz wanted to integrate her love of food and history and was amazed that the South did not have a museum dedicated to its extraordinary and unique culinary traditions. After collecting numerous artifacts, organizing exhibitions, and recruiting nationally recognized chefs and food industry leaders to serve as the Board of Directors, Liz and her team developed the concept of SoFAB, which opened its doors in June of 2008 in New Orleans and recently reopened in it’s new, larger location on the city’s up and coming Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard. SoFAB has earned praise and accolades, including being named one of the “11 of the World’s Top Food Museums” by CNN. Liz is the author of several books, including her latest book, coauthored with Chris McMillian, about the drinking culture of New Orleans, entitled Lift Your Spirits. Other books include The Encyclopedia of Law and Food, and New Orleans: A Food Biography.
Poppy Tooker, Cultural Ambassador
Poppy Tooker is known for her NPR affiliated radio show, Louisiana Eats! which carries her message state-wide and beyond. The New Orleans Press Club named Louisiana Eats! best radio show of 2014. In 2013, her radio show inspired her to write her Louisiana Eats! book, which was given the Literary Award of the Year by the Louisiana Library Association. After being tapped to update one of the earliest Louisiana cookbooks, Madame Begue’s Creole Recipes of Old New Orleans Creole Cookery (first published in 1900) Poppy went on to continue the story of Begue’s with the recently published Tujague’s Cookbook, Creole Recipes and Lorein the Grand New Orleans Tradition. As a culinary activist, Poppy has been instrumental in reviving endangered local foods such as Creole cream cheese and rice calas. She was a key element in the success of the Crescent City Farmers Market and, in 2007, Poppy authored the Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook which was given the Eula Mae Dore Tabasco Award for its historical and cultural content. Poppy also appears weekly on the WYES public television show, Steppin’ Out, dishing out spicy food commentary. Visitors and locals alike savor the opportunity to enjoy many speaking engagements and culinary demonstrations which tie together her passion for the delicious history and recipes of Louisiana’s foods. She’s a cultural ambassador on a mission and her life’s mission has been to work as a culinary activist, promoting and preserving food culture and history while safe guarding the planet’s bio-diversity. Poppy founded the Slow Food New Orleans Chapter in 1999 creating one of the first 10 chapters in the United States. She was selected to serve as an International Governor with the movement. Following Hurricane Katrina, Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini awarded Poppy with its first ever leadership award and at that time she was also recognized by the Times Picayune’s a “Hero of the Storm”, a story which was nationally told on the Weather Channel. The International Association of Cooking Professionals recognized Poppy’s efforts in April 2008, with their first ever, Community Service Award. In 2012, Southern Living magazine named Poppy a “Hero of the New South” for her work in foodways.