Born and raised in Florida, Kristen Essig worked in the kitchen starting at an early age alongside her mother and grandmother, developing a passion for good food and cooking. After attending Johnson & Wales Culinary Institute and graduating Summa Cum Laude in 1998, Essig met Emeril Lagasse and gained a position at his flagship restaurant, Emeril’s. She has called New Orleans home ever since and spent five years at Peristyle with Anne Kearney. She has also worked with noted chefs Susan Spicer, Corbin Evans and Greg Sonnier. A love of collaborating with local farmers and purveyors led Essig to take a position as manager for the Crescent City Farmers Market. She continued to support local vendors as executive chef at a local cooking school and as CEO of her own catering company, NOLA Bean. Essig decided to jump back into the restaurant world and join Sainte Marie in early 2013 as executive chef.

Sainte Marie, 930 Poydras St., Suite 101, New Orleans, (504) 304-6988,


Black-Eyed Pea Hummus

“We are so lucky to have almost a boundless selection of fresh peas and beans. At Sainte Marie we love our locally grown black-eyed peas, but feel free to substitute any fresh bean or pea … pink-eyed peas, lima beans or crowder peas would be delicious as well! Can’t find fresh? Use high-quality, low-sodium canned beans. Be sure to drain them well and you can enjoy a twist on traditional hummus any time of the year.”

To cook the peas:
• 2 cups fresh black eyed peas
• 3 cups water
• 2 garlic cloves, whole
• 3 bay leaves
• 2 sprigs thyme
• Zest of 1 lemon

Combine all the ingredients and cook over medium high heat and cook until peas are tender.
Strain, remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs and place on a parchment lined sheet pan.

For the hummus:
• cooked beans from above
• 2 ounces tahini
• 1 ounce lemon juice
• 1/2 cup water
• 2 Tablespoons olive oil
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• Zest of 1 lemon

Combine the cooked beans (processing them while still warm is best) with the remaining ingredients in the work bowl of the food processor.
Puree till very smooth, being sure to season well with salt and pepper.
Refrigerate until ready to use.
Serve cold.

Yields 3 cups.