Chef Nini Nguyen Shares Her Favorite Food Experiences in New Orleans

Uproxx/Smallz & Raskind/Bravo Media

Welcome to EAT THIS CITY, your tour of the best restaurants in one of our favorite cities, as chosen by a world-class chef, celebrity, or local hero.

This week, we make our way to The Big Easy — that multicultural Mecca where people go to tour cemeteries, drink drive-thru daiquiris, and jump into second line parades. Though people often associate New Orleans with Mari Gras and getting hammered, it also has one of the most interesting food scenes in the United States. For advice on where to eat, we turned to Top Chef Season 16 contestant and New Orleans aficionado Nini Nguyen.

Nguyen’s cuisine draws from the dual aspects of her identity — her Vietnamese heritage and her NOLA upbringing. Though she grew up appreciating food, she opted to take a traditional career path initially, earning a degree in business marketing from Louisiana State University. But her love of cooking asserted itself and she felt like she had to pursue her passion. She got a start working at Sucre and Coquette in New Orleans, where she specialized in pastries.

For now, Nguyen has left her hometown and made her way to the big show in NYC to strengthen her skill set at Eleven Madison Park and nationwide at Dinner Lab. She’s also the culinary director of Cook Space in Brooklyn, where she uses her experience in the kitchen and on Top Chef to teach home cooks how to cook like the pros.

Ready to check out some of Nini’s favorite food in New Orleans? Let’s roll!