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Learn to Cook Fancy Like Nick Elmi With the ‘Top Chef’ Winner’s First Cookbook

The book, out now, features recipes from Laurel on East Passyunk Avenue

a shell with a creamy food and flowers in it on a bed of salt
A page from Nick Elmi and Adam Erace’s new cookbook, Laurel: Modern American Flavors in Philadelphia 
Neal Santos

Looking for the perfect nine-course tasting menu to prepare at your next dinner party? Nick Elmi has got you. The chef, who worked at Philly icon Le Bec-Fin before opening his own restaurant and winning Bravo’s hit culinary competition Top Chef, just dropped his first cookbook. Laurel: Modern American Flavors in Philadelphia ($35) is based off recipes from his excellent East Passyunk Avenue eatery and available starting Tuesday, September 17.

The chef wrote the cookbook with Philly-based food and travel writer Adam Erace (Erace also wrote a Palizzi Social Club cookbook with chef Joey Baldino; that one is out next month). Photographer Neal Santos, who co-owns Filipino stand Lalo in the Bourse food hall, took the photos.

Elmi opened Laurel in late 2013, right after his New Orleans-set Top Chef season premiered. The elegant 22-seat restaurant serves what he describes as modern, French-influenced American cuisine, available only via tasting menu. It’s a splurge for a weeknight meal, at $85 for six courses or $125 for nine, but the oft-changing menus are so inventive you’ll be talking about the dishes for days afterward.

a chef in a kitchen sprinkling something onto a dish
Chef Nick Elmi in the kitchen at Laurel, photographed for Laurel: Modern American Flavors in Philadelphia
Neal Santos

Like the menus at the restaurant, the recipes in the cookbook are seasonal, with bourbon-glazed grilled lobster with crunchy grains and apple blossom for winter, black sea bass with peas and rhubarb for spring, and a summery marigold-compressed kohlrabi. Each chapter makes up a nine-course tasting menu, complete with cocktail pairings.

The dishes may be too intricate for most to execute at home, but it’s a pretty book.

Next door to Laurel, Elmi has cocktail bar ITV. In November 2017 he added Royal Boucherie, a lively French brasserie in Old City.

a cookbook cover that says “laurel”
The cover of the cookbook


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