Angie Mar and Nina Compton, wake up and take a bow
The future of breakfast is in excellent hands. Other meals, too, but it did not escape my notice that this year, two of my very favorite breakfast chefs—Angie Mar and Nina Compton—made the cut for Food & Wine Magazine's annual Best New Chefs list. It's a big damn honor, and an awful lot of legwork goes into it. Restaurant editor Jordana Rothman, along with the rest of the F&W team, scours the United States for chefs who have been cooking in their own kitchen for five years or less, making a major impact in their region, and shining a light toward where food culture will be heading next. The final list came down to 12.
Previous honorees throughout Best New Chefs' 29-year history include David Chang, Tom Colicchio, Grant Achatz, and Thomas Keller, and the 2017 crop includes more women than in any other previous year, with half of the roster being made up of immigrant or first-generation chefs. This is how America will be eating, and America is awfully lucky—especially when it comes to breakfast.
I can't even pretend to be objective here. I've been a loud, rabid fan of Angie Mar's bare-knuckled meat boosterism since nearly two years ago when I sat down at The Beatrice Inn and sank into her 45-day dry-aged burger with red wine caramelized onions and d’affinois cheese on a brioche bun. I ordered it rare, to her great glee, and felt like a feral cave girl. It felt right.
In the summer of 2016, Mar bought The Bea from owner Graydon Carter and has transformed the clubby institution into a modern, experimental steakhouse complete with tableside duck flambe, bone marrow creme brulee, and massive, bone-in 120-day-aged tomahawk steaks.
If Mar had her way, there would be no forks included in the place settings—just greasy hands and bared teeth. And that goes for breakfast, too. The chef's mother was raised in Oxford, England, and Mar treasures an over-the-top English breakfast, which she's translated into a weekly Sunday roast at the Beatrice. Y'all can keep your grain bowls and kale smoothies; Mar's Full English includes slab bacon, black pudding, roasted tomato, mushroom marmalade, and cannellini beans, as well as optional sides of pork lard scones, sticky buns, and presumably a nap. It's gorgeous daytime excess, and I can't help but hope it becomes the norm elsewhere.
Nina Compton's Caribbean-anchored offerings at Compere Lapin in New Orleans are the flip side of that same coin, and I hold them equally dear in my heart. In the midst of a city of excess (it would be entirely possible to consume an entire weekend's suggested caloric intake before noon on any given day and not bat an eye), Compton offers a smart, palate-shaking brunch menu that both rights the ship, and sets me on a steady course for the day ahead. The first time I had it was after about an hour of flailing around the Quarter and the Warehouse District seeking a morning meal that didn't just consist of gravy, fried dough, and imminent regret. I fell face-first into a plate of Compton's spicy black beans, avocado, and sunnyside up eggs, with a side of tostones, and arose feeling awake and human again for the first time in days. That's an awful lot to lay on a simple morning meal, but it was the single best breakfast I ate in 2015. I think about it on a regular basis and cannot wait to have those flavors back in my life.
So there's breakfast—or at least brunch—in 2017. Take the Best New Chefs list as a mandate, download it to your phone, and set your GPS toward each one of these very worthy chefs' restaurants. I can't guarantee you'll find them open in the morning, but they'll certainly be worth the trip.