Chef Nicholas Elmi, winner of season 11 of Top Chef, in town for Beaver Creek’s Food & Wine Weekend
Meet Nicholas Elmi
• Cooking demonstration and lunch with Top Chef Nicholas Elmi, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Splendido at the Chateau
With this exclusive cooking class, guests will have a front-row seat as Bravo’s Top Chef winner Nicholas Elmi takes over Splendido’s demonstration kitchen. This one-of-a-kind event winds down with a convivial lunch where guests will feast on Elmi’s top notch dishes paired with exquisite wines. Tickets are $130.
• Grand Tasting, 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Ford Hall, Beaver Creek. Tickets are $150.
BEAVER CREEK — Nicholas Elmi, winner of season 11 of “Top Chef,” has one piece of advice for aspiring chefs.
“The first 10 to 15 years of your career should be treated like a residency,” Elmi said. “Keep your head down, learn (and) do what your told, even if you don’t agree.”
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Elmi certainly put in his time, keeping his head down and his hands busy at lauded establishments like Philadelphia’s Brasserie Perrier followed by a trio of New York City fine dining establishments — Lutece, Union Pacific and Oceana — before a stint at Guy Savoy in Paris, which he views as a formative experience that changed the way he sees ingredients, purveyors and the creative process in the kitchen.
Now Elmi is the chef and owner of two restaurants in South Philadelphia — the Rittenhouse Tavern and Restaurant Laurel, which serves French-inspired American cuisine with an emphasis on regional tradition and contemporary flavors. Laurel, a modern, 26-seat eatery, opened in November 2013 and quickly became the talk of both critics and neighbors: It was recently named the No. 1 restaurant in Philadelphia in Philadelphia Magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants for 2015 list and was also named a semifinalist by the James Beard Foundation for Best New Restaurant in America.
On Friday’s and Saturday’s, Elmi only serves a seven-course chef’s tasting menu, which includes inventive dishes like duck confit cassoulet with quail egg, white bean espuma and crispy chicken skin; or wild blue catfish with green meadow squash, almond bread and coconut clam broth.
Elmi took the time to answer a few questions for the Vail Daily.
Vail Daily: What’s your favorite memory from your time on “Top Chef?”
Nicholas Elmi: Being in the finale with my wife and mother there to watch was pretty inspiring.
VD: Tell me about a food memory you have from childhood? Perhaps an integral moment that inspired your career path?
NE: I’m one of six and eventually we began cooking for each other because both of my parents worked a tremendous amount. That’s sort of how I started — cooking for my brothers and sisters at home.
VD: What ingredients are inspiring you lately?
NE: “Trash fish”; things like sea robin and dogfish and sheeps head fish that have been thrown back over the past however long but are great eating fish. It’s enlightening to taste something for the first time.
VD: Are there any ingredients/flavors/trends you’re bored with?
NE: Smoked vegetables.
VD: Do you pay close attention to food trends?
NE: Only to make sure what I do hasn’t become a trend.
VD: What’s the best thing you’ve eaten in the last 24 hours?
NE: Green papaya and beef jerky salad from Nat Pham; so bright and spicy.
VD: Is there anything you’re embarrassed to admit having eaten in the last day or two?
NE: I snuck some of my son’s fruit snacks when he wasn’t looking.
VD: What are your goals for 2015?
NE: To grow. We’ve expanded our kitchen and are hoping to open another location.