Laurel Chef Nicholas Elmi Wins Top Chef


Congrats to Philadelphia chef Nicholas Elmi, who won Bravo’s Top Chef competition on Wednesday night.

Elmi, who opened the much-praised Laurel on Passyunk Avenue in November, defeated fellow finalist Nina Compton, a St. Lucia native who works in Miami.

His wife and mother made appearances on the finale. Elmi said on the show that he wanted to win Top Chef because he wanted his parents to know that they had raised a “good kid.”

Elmi’s Top Chef-winning final menu included:

• hamachi with three preparations of green apple (Morimoto liked it, but Emeril thought it needed a “few grains of sea salt”; Tom Colicchio said, “I think this is the best fish I’ve had all year”)

• sweet shrimp bisque with scallop noodles (Morimoto didn’t understand the scallops)

• duck breast with kabucha squash (Emeril said the duck was “very chewy”)

• and caramalized white chocolate panna cotta (Morimoto declared it “a great dish”).

Elmi got a little frustrated with his servers during the dessert course served to the first round of judges. “Where are the spoons I asked for five minutes ago?” he snapped. But then he really freaked out during the second round. “Goddammit!” he screamed in the kitchen, and the judges heard. “Awkward,” one remarked.

As the Top Chef winner, Elmi gets a feature in Food & Wine magazine and $125,000.

Before opening Laurel, the Culinary Institute of America graduate was the chef at Rittenhouse Tavern. And before that, he worked at Le Bec-Fin. Elmi’s other experience included Daniel, Lutece, Union Pacific and Oceana in New York. He also staged at Guy Savoy in Paris, and in 2001, Elmi worked under Georges Perrier at Brasserie Perrier.

We couldn’t be happier for Elmi. We just hope that we can still score a Friday night table at Laurel. Doubt it.

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  • nic

    Nina deserved to win! She is a classy lady who cooked amazing food all season long. In the finale she prepared more than was required and almost everything was spot on. Nick had proven to be a bully in the kitchen, failed all season long and in the finale served a plate of fiid that coulsnt even be eaten because it was undercooked! And he STILL could not salt properly!!! Over 80% of the viewers voting chose Nina and it is shocking that the judges gave it to Nick. I am sickened and will never tune into Top Chef again.

    • Art from Foobooz

      In the final two episodes Nick out cooked everyone and deserved to win. Nina, unfortunately made some mistakes. Her dessert and main course we’re let downs.

      • JA

        Nick Elmi apologist? Aren’t journalist supposed to remain neutral? That’s right you “guys” aren’t journalists…just commentators like the rest of us…except you get an expense account, comps and other assorted freebies!

        • Art from Foobooz

          Just calling it like I see it.

          • Diamond Dave

            Yet you fail to add the words, “In my opinion.”

            Tom Collicchio is the host and apparently was going to sit stubbornly until he got his way.

            Perhaps Nina’s dessert was anti-climactic, however the show is not called Top Pastry Chef. Plus, she planned / purchased ingredients for an ice cream dessert she was unable to make based on lack of equipment.

            When a show promotes the very best chef vs the very best chef, crowns a mid-level cook it’s winner, credibility is lost…in my opinion.

          • Art from Foobooz

            Here’s how the judges scored it according to href=”″>Tom Colicchio’s Twitter feed:

            This is how we scored last nights challenge

            1st course
            5 to Nina

            3 Nina 2 Nick

            1 Nina 4 nick

            0 Nina 5 to nick

            Nina 9 nick 11

          • rk

            yes, how dare the head judge have a strong opinion! i like how Art’s the only one who has to qualify his opinion, yet you can make claims about the quality of the chefs without having to add that qualification to your claims about Nick’s abilities (note where you added it). that “mid-level cook” helmed Le Bec Fin and his own restaurant is phenomenal. I ate there last week. His food wasn’t underseasoned, it was subtle. One of the few 4+ course meals where I didn’t end up at home chugging water trying to get the salt taste out of my mouth. Nothing was underseasoned, in my opinion.

            Nina got screwed by there not being an ice cream machine. Nick got screwed by having front of house who screwed up.

            none of us tasted the food that night. Either believe the judges did their best or don’t. but the idea that ANY of us could make a claim about which was better from watching is laughable (nevermind the effects of editing and ability to present a narrative. Laurel’s menu is unappeallingly written compared to how good the food is, in my opinion). yet here all of you are. sigh.

          • KathyB

            Agree, completely. Nick ruled in Hawaii and his food always looked so beautiful, but slammed for under seasoning his proteins. Yet, often the judges loved his sauces. Having eaten at Laurel, I don’t get it, nothing in our 7 courses was under seasoned. Probably the best meal I’ve ever had, including Daniel.

      • JimBucksbury

        I’m not sure how you can make that statement without actually tasting the food they cooked.

    • Candisue

      I agree. Seems that Tom made this decision because he can. I think im done with top chef too!! This was clearly a rip off!!

    • Johnny Goodtimes

      I find it hilarious that people who didn’t taste the food are outraged at people who did for picking the wrong person in a contest based on how food tasted. That is amazing.

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  • SC

    Uh…how about a spoiler alert, and then post the result in the text? Thanks for ruining tonight’s DVR!

    • CS

      That’s your fault for not watching SC. If you didn’t want to know who won, you probably shouldn’t have gone on the INTERNET!!! FUCKING DUMBASS!

      • Larry Smith

        Man you are an assh@le

    • Larry Smith

      I was just playing the show…Now I do not have to watch…Nick was a bully and def not the best chef this year. He should have been eliminated at least twice earlier. I would have been pissed if I wasted an hour and found out Nick won….now I can just delete!!

  • Margo James

    Those judges really wanted to win from day one. He should have been kicked out a long time ago. Whats with those outbursts during the finale???? Nina was a classier woman who was consistent throughout the whole show. Very disappointing results. Check the polls, they all wanted Nina to win

  • Margo James

    Nina was sabotaged….where was the icecream machine????

  • Shereen

    As I made a reservation last night on open table for Laurel, I couldn’t believe, May 2nd! No Friday or Saturday night res. until then (unless you wanna eat at 10). But I will be posting for Date Night on, so I’ll patiently wait. I wonder if panna cotta will be on the menu?

  • danielle

    I heard he won a lifetime supply of wrinkle-free khaki cargo pants and a case of finishing salt.

  • Heather

    Nick won it is was fair… it is about the food the judges choose him. Good for Nick, I know people who have worked with him and they rave about what a great chef he is.
    I have a reservation for Laurel next week, I can’t wait I know he does great food from Le Bec Fin and Rittenhouse… so I expect Laurel will blow them away!

    • vampyre927

      His food at Le Bec Fin sucked!! There is a reason it closed,his food!!

    • KathyB

      Jelly! Be prepared to be delighted!

  • vampyre927

    Nicholas is,was and always will be a Douche-Bag!! Elmi and Cichonski are exactly the same way-“Screamers” It’s never their fault!

  • Larry Smith

    Tom does what he wants and that’s always the way it is…

  • curious

    Horrible choice. And no I didn’t taste the food. But Emeril did. “I wanted another plate of Nina’s dish. But I couldn’t even eat Nick’s dish.” Inedible used to get you kicked out, but not any more. This is the year that Top Chef officially jumped the shark … a sad come-down for what used the be the best must-see cooking competition on all of TV. I suppose I might watch next year, but just to see the train fall completely off the tracks.

  • fayl