Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Philadelphia >
Feb 5, 2014 08:09 PM


Philly has another Top Chef! Nicholas Elmi takes it...

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. and only 22 seats in his restaurant.

    5 Replies
    1. re: sal_acid

      When Laurel opened, I was pretty sure that meant that he *hadn't* won Top Chef, because if he had, wouldn't he open something bigger, with a liquor license? Of course, before that, he was at Le Bec Fin and Rittenhouse Tavern, two pretty big places, and they both closed, so maybe he figured a small BYO was a better format for him.

      I'm not holding my breath, but it would be nice if now that 2 out of 11 Top Chef winners are from Philadelphia, they might consider setting a season of the show here, tax breaks or not...

      1. re: Buckethead

        Given how long it takes to open a restaurant, secure a site etc, I am sure he selected his site before TC was finished.

        I frankly wish they wouldn't tie things down to one city .. make them move from city to city ... there are probably a lot of costs associated with that, but would make it more interesting...

        1. re: cwdonald

          I don't remember the timeline exactly, but I seem to remember he was already working on Laurel when it was leaked that they were filming Top Chef with Jason and Nick. I don't think he could have known he'd win $125K when Laurel was already in development.

          Of course he has to pay taxes, but $125K would cover a significant part of a liquor license... (what are they going for, $80-100K or something?). Although he doesn't have room for a bar. A liquor license would be a bit of a waste for only 20-some seats. Maybe better to save it for his second restaurant (a la Blackfish), or a relocation to a larger space (a la Fond).

          1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

            Your estimated cost is spot on. What is more interesting is that the cost of a liquor license in suburbia is 2x the cost in Philadelphia. That alone is enough to understand why there is a dearth of good restaurants in the suburbs relative to Philadelphia. The only organizations that can afford them are large restaurant groups, and chains.


            1. re: cwdonald

              This Zagat interview actually has the timeline for Laurel vs Top Chef:

              "Zagat: When did you start planning Laurel?

              Nick: I originally looked at the East Passyunk space in May, before I left for New Orleans. But it wasn’t until I came back during the break that my partner and I decided it was the right thing. I love that room, the karma it has [it used to be Fond]. I really wanted to do a tiny restaurant, where I could concentrate on each table, each dish. And I love how, if I’m not there, we just close for the day."


      1. re: cgarner

        Eh. EW is just trolling for comments and page views. They suck.

        1. re: sal_acid

          I'm annoyed by it. The writer thinks he can get away with saying what he wants by adding in the caveat that it might be 'editing'?
          as my kid would say "what-ev-er"
          Elmi has an impressive resume' to reduce his win like that is wrong
          he won based on his food... Tom Colicchio doesn't get to say who wins and who loses

          1. re: cgarner

            Me too. But this is why EW sucks. Blatant attempt to get people to comment and increase their pageviews. I'm sure the writer was assigned this topic.

            Be interesting to go back and see what they did after other TC finales.

        2. re: cgarner

          Thanks I lost a few more brain cells reading that odd rant.

        3. We had no power, so I didn't get to see the show. I will try to find it on demand. I am happy he won!

          1. The furor about who should have won Top Chef is still going on online...but it is interesting to note that someone else who was there for the final meal, fellow Top Chef contestant Chef Sara Johannes, tweeted that she ate both Nick and Nina's meals and thought Nick's was the best:

            Tweeted yesterday: "I ate both meals, and Nick's was better. I'd love to see a female TC too (luv u Nick!) B right decision was made."


            LOL, about time to get back to the real world...

            BTW, I was just looking on OpenTable, and Laurel is 100% booked for the next 8 weeks, all days, all times.

            4 Replies
            1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

              We were there this week and I have to say that I think I would pick Fond first before going back to Laurel. And if you want to compare Top Chef winners, I would also pick Sbraga first.

              Not that I thought it was horrible, I just wasn't "wowed".

              1. re: Philly Ray

                I would probably choose Sbraga first too, but I've never been as enamored with Fond as everyone else. I've only been to Laurel once, and that was opening night, so I can't really tell.

                Wasn't Sbraga awarded only 2 bells first time out, and subsequently raised to 3? So at least Laurel is starting faster out of the gate...

                Although it's only 22 seats vs much larger Sbraga, Sbraga took a long time to open after Top Chef 7 was over. So at least Nick is making some money right now, given Laurel is 100% booked for the next 2 months.

                1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                  Here's the original review, I think the service issues were the main sticking point...


                  1. re: Philly Ray

                    I don't know, there was a lot of negative food comments in that review. Very different from the almost entirely positive Laurel review.