About Chef Nicholas Elmi
Star Chef Nicholas Elmi started cooking at an early age in the kitchen of his parent’s home in Bradford, MA. After working at a local trattoria as a bus boy, and then eventually working the line making pizza and pasta, he discovered he had much bigger culinary dreams. He soon enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America – and never looked back.
After graduating from the CIA in 2001, he moved to Philadelphia and immediately landed a job under the celebrated chef George Perrier at Brasserie Perrier. Next, he moved to New York City with stints at the highly acclaimed Daniel, Lutece, Union Pacific, and Oceana.
In a move that would significantly impact his trajectory as a chef, he moved to Paris and worked with legendary Chef Guy Savoy at Guy Savoy. It was during this time he developed a new profound respect for product, technique, and the creative process.
He returned to George Perrier in Philly and took over the kitchen as Executive Chef at Le Bec-Fin. Always looking forward, he then moved to the critically acclaimed Rittenhouse Tavern as executive chef, drawing upon his extensive French training and influences.
In 2013, Chef Elmi joined the hit Bravo show “Top Chef,” where he went on to win the wildly popular competition. During this time, he was also preparing to open his new restaurant Laurel in the Passyunk neighborhood, a hip and growing ‘foodie’ area with some of the best new restaurants in Philadelphia. Laurel is described as an intimate French / American restaurant – but that hardly begins to describe how amazing this restaurant is…read our review below.
Upon its opening, and still today, Laurel continues to be ranked as one of the best restaurants in the United States, and often is labelled the best in Philly.
Now, read our exclusive interview with the amazing Chef Nicholas Elmi. Then read our article about our unforgettable dining experience at Laurel (below).
Our H2FAL interview with Chef Nicholas Elmi:
H2FAL: How did you get your start in cooking?
NE: I got a job as a bus boy when I was 14. I was terrible at it so they put me in the dish pit. One weekend the GM guy didn’t show up, so next thing I knew, I was on the line. Haven’t looked back since.
H2FAL: Did you learn to cook at home, in addition to cooking school?
NE: A little. I’m one of 6 and we all took turns at cooking.
H2FAL: You only offer a tasting menu at Laurel, which we absolutely loved…can you explain why you decided to only offer this option?
NE: When we first opened, we started offering a tasting menu which was doing very well. After about a year, about 75% of the people were getting tastings. It was great but we also had an a la carte menu that we were supplying that seemed a bit misplaced. I think it was a natural transition.
H2FAL: You have stated that you like the “Philly attitude” that most customers bring when they dine at your restaurant. Can you explain what you mean by that?
NE: Philadelphians tell it like it is. I like that honesty. I appreciate criticism.
H2FAL: Can you tell us the inspiration behind the name of your much-admired restaurant “Laurel?”
NE: It’s the state flower of PA.
H2FAL: You are trained in classic French cuisine and have worked at highly acclaimed French-inspired restaurants in the U.S. Is there a particular chef or experience that you feel was your greatest influence and helped to elevate you to where you are today?
NE: I wouldn’t say one particular style of any one chef. Being a chef is about taking all of your experiences and knowledge and creating your own voice. Chef Perrier taught me balance, Chef Savoy taught me about respecting product, Chef Morales taught me to push my boundaries.
H2FAL: If you were on Iron Chef, what ingredient would you hope to be the themed ingredient for the cooking battle?
H2FAL: What’s your indulgence food?
NE: A Butterfinger
H2FAL: Is there anything you won’t eat?
NE: No. But, I don’t particularly like green bell peppers.
H2FAL: What was it about “Top Chef” that made you want to compete on the show?
NE: It felt organic. The cooking process and challenges are natural.
H2FAL: Would you consider competing on “Top Chef” again?
H2FAL: What’s an upcoming trend in food today?
Now, click the image below to read about our amazing experience at the amazing Laurel.