After Kristen Essig graduated from Johnson & Wales Culinary School in 1998, she began her work with James Beard Award-winning chefs Frank Lee and Louis Osteen in Charleston. But about two decades ago, Essig made her move to the Crescent City and began cooking with legendary local chef Emeril Lagasse, and later with Anne Kearney. She also cooked at Meauxbar, and joined the Crescent City Farmers Market as a Marketing Manager, nurturing her love of locally sourced food.
Now, Essig and her partner Michael Stoltzfus serve as chefs and co-owners at Coquette, a romantic restaurant on Magazine Street that serves contemporary Southern cuisine with locally sourced products and has an incredible cocktail program. Most recently, the partners have been nominated as finalists in the 2018 and 2019 James Beard Awards in the “Best Chef: South” category. Prior to that, Essig has received countless accolades including James Beard Award noms, Coastal Living Magazine’s “5 Coastal Chefs to Watch” (2015), and Food & Wine Magazine’s “The People’s Best New Chef” (2015).
The two chefs opened a new restaurant, Thalia, in 2019 in the Lower Garden District. This restaurant takes a more casual and affordable approach, ideal for families.