So it’s not like Laurel was easy to get into before chef Nick Elmi was named Top Chef last week. With 22 seats, a five-night-a-week dinner schedule and an already well-known white jacket in the kitchen, it was never going to be a walk-in kind of joint.
But now, with the TV and the fame and everything else, it’s just bonkers. As I’m writing this, Laurel’s Open Table reservation system is down–I assume because it has just plain melted–but last I heard, you were looking at a wait of months for a prime table, and weeks for anything at all. But there is another way…
See, Laurel is one of the restaurants that’s going to be at Philly Cooks this year. And there are still a few tickets left for the big event, happening Wednesday the 19th. So if you’re interested in tasting the food that won Elmi the big prize, this might be your only chance for a good, long time.
Here’s hoping we see you all there.
Philly Cooks Tickets [The Big Event]
With Top Chef in the rearview mirror, we look back at Nick Elmi’s career at Le Bec Fin, Rittenhouse Tavern and now at Laurel.
Elmi through the years and in photos and dishes »
Congrats to Philadelphia chef Nicholas Elmi, who won Bravo’s Top Chef competition on Wednesday night. Read more »
No more of this, okay Nick?
So this is it. Tonight is the big night for Nick Elmi and Nina Compton. They have made it through what feels like 300 weeks of challenges and weirdness and product placement and Tom’s smirking, all to make it to this moment: the Top Chef finale. One of them will be walking away with $125,000 and the title of Top Chef, and we here at Foobooz World HQ have gone through all the footage, all the recaps, all the speculation to lay odds on who is going to walk away with the big prize.
So are you ready? Let’s start by looking backward…
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Join Philadelphia cheftestant Jason Cichonski for a Top Chef Finale viewing party at The Gaslight, his recently opened bar in Old City. Root for Laurel’s Nick Elmi as he looks to bring home Philadelphia’s second Top Chef crown (Kevin Sbraga also won Top Chef).
The Gaslight, which has taken the place of the former Philadelphia Bar and Restaurant at 120 Market Street will be offering $5 hot and specialty cocktails as well as craft beer and wine specials from 8 p.m. till the show’s start at 10 p.m., so get there early.
Watch a preview of tonight’s finale »
I know this entire thing played out months ago, but I can’t help being resentful of these cheftestant jerks gallivanting (yes, gallivanting) around Maui like extras from the cast of Lost. I suppose they deserve it after weeks of psychological torture and sequestration, but still. It’s fucking cold here in Philadelphia and I am a spiteful man.
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Laurel’s Grilled maitake. Photography by Jason Varney
Twelve years is a long sentence for someone who hasn’t committed a crime, even if you get to serve it in some swanky cells. Ask Nicholas Elmi. The onetime apprentice at Manhattan’s Daniel and Lutèce rose to become Georges Perrier’s right hand at Le Bec-Fin, then glided into the blue-blooded precincts of the Philadelphia Art Alliance as head chef at Rittenhouse Tavern. But in 2013, at long last, the golden handcuffs came off.
His coming-out party began on national television, where he competed on Season 11 of Bravo’s Top Chef. But that’s beside the point—not just for this cable-shunning critic, but for any food lover within taxi distance of East Passyunk Avenue. Because it’s there, in a 10-by-15-and-a-half-foot kitchen barely big enough to afford him the company of a single sous-chef and a culinary student, that Elmi is finally doing things his way. And what a way that is.
After a career spent “cooking other people’s food” and then chafing against his corporate leash at Rittenhouse Tavern, Elmi opened Laurel as a co-owner in November. Two weeks later, he cooked my favorite BYO meal of the year. Three weeks after that, my favorite meal anywhere. From the thimble-sized snowballs of frozen horseradish that bedazzled cubes of poached tuna to the tongue-tingling windfall of pink peppercorns clinging to a marbled foie gras terrine shot through with brown veins of cocoa, his plates took my table by storm.
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While many of us were watching Top Chef last night, Nick Elmi was at Laurel where he was just finishing up cooking for Top Chef former castmates Jason Cichonski and Travis Masar.
And what did they think of the Elmi’s cooking at Laurel? »