This season’s “Top Chef” winner, Nick Elmi, has a full plate. As expected, his win brought an onslaught of interview and collaboration requests. A few weeks following the airing of the season finale, Elmi’s East Passyunk restaurant, Laurel, was nominated for a James Beard award.
He carved out a little time to speak with us soon after the James Beard Foundation announced the nominees.
Apparently “Top Chef” contestants can only tell their spouses and lawyers the end result of the show. How did you manage to keep such a big secret?
It sucks, because everyone you meet wants to know who won. I always tried to keep it light and funny. I would tell people to just keep watching the show. But once you see the size of the “Top Chef” contract, you keep your mouth shut.
Are you glad it’s all over and the secret is out and you can get back to work?
Yeah, certainly. I’m moving forward and able to focus on the restaurant. I think we’ve done a good job so far.
Besides the obvious fame and fortune, how has “Top Chef” changed your life in a way that outsiders may not be able to notice?
That remains to be seen. For me, the finale was [taped] in October. So I just kept my head down at work for the past four months, which is still my focus. Now I have to do more interviews. [Laughs]
How do you keep yourself grounded?
It’s pretty easy: I turn my phone off at noon every day. I try to do interviews and stuff in the morning. It’s the easiest way to just focus on the restaurant.
Do you have a favorite ingredient to work with right now?
This is a strange time of year; everyone’s hoping to use spring ingredients soon. I like switching up different root vegetables.
Where can we find you on your day off?
I took the kids ice skating recently. The restaurant is closed on Sunday and Monday. The rule at work is don’t call me, and I won’t call you.