In 2014, Nicholas Elmi received season 11 of Bravo’s Prime Chef. Elmi—who has cooked in acclaimed eating places from New York to Paris and spent over a decade working for legendary chef Georges Perrier in Philadelphia—now owns three eating places within the metropolis: Laurel, Within the Valley, and Royal Boucherie. Elmi’s first cookbook, Laurel: Modern American Flavors in Philadelphia, was printed in September.
However earlier than all that, it began with tequila and $5,000 in money.
In 2013, Elmi had simply completed filming the present, which had but to air, and was taking part in poker with Lee Styer, his buddy and former sous chef at Perrier’s landmark Le Bec-Fin. On the time, Styer was relocating his personal restaurant, Fond, to a much bigger area, and after hours of ingesting tequila collectively, he agreed to offer Elmi the lease on his previous area for $5,000. Regardless of the rounds of liquor, Elmi, who not drinks, nonetheless vividly recalled the settlement, and the following morning he arrived at Styer’s restaurant with the cash.
4 months later, Elmi opened Laurel on Philadelphia’s East Passyunk Avenue. Although the neighborhood’s eating scene is prospering now, again then it was simply beginning to bloom, and Laurel was one in every of its pioneers.
Rooted in French method, the trendy American restaurant highlights the area’s greatest components with six- and nine-course tasting menus. After opening with an à la carte menu, the chef added a tasting menu a number of months later, after which made the troublesome selection to supply solely a tasting menu. On the time, Philadelphia didn’t have many tasting-menu-only eating places. (Marc Vetri’s namesake Italian spot was maybe the one notable exception.)
“All people is telling me no,” Elmi recollects. “They stated, ‘There’s a motive why nobody else is doing it. That is Philadelphia. You’re not going to get away with this right here.’ And I used to be like, You realize what? All of you might be incorrect.”
Elmi had information to again him up, although. Most diners have been choosing the tasting menu anyway, and this path was extra aligned with what he seen because the ethos of the 22-seat Laurel. Located on a decent block in South Philly, the constructing was as soon as a row home.
“This was once somebody’s home,” says the chef. “And in case you got here to my home, you’d sit down and also you eat no matter I cooked for you.” With this format, Elmi and his crew had the liberty to actually present diners what they might do.
It turned out Elmi’s intuition was proper, and the brand new construction was a boon for the restaurant, touchdown it on a roster of greatest restaurant lists in each native and nationwide shops. Tasting menus additionally make up the format of Elmi’s first cookbook, which he labored on with Adam Erace, a Philadelphia-based meals and journey author. (Erace contributes to a number of publications, together with Fortune.)
It represents one 12 months at Laurel, with 4 tasting menus that every replicate the area’s altering seasonal components. Erace’s aim in approaching the e book was to current Elmi’s extremely inventive, technique-driven recipes in a compelling, complete approach. For his half, Elmi’s aim was to offer readers a minimum of one nice thought or method, which is what he seems to be for from a cookbook: “I need anyone, from a novice to an skilled chef, to have the ability to undergo this e book, and a minimum of get one or two concepts. It’s constructing your repertoire and increasing your data.”
And whereas there are recipes like cardamom leaf–cured bream with peaches ready 4 methods—pickled, pureed, salt-cured, and steeped with chamomile—that may enchantment to extra skilled cooks, the duo underscore that the e book is for residence cooks too.
Elmi recommends beginning with the ricotta gnocchi, which can also be Prime Chef decide–accredited: “When you get that method down, it’s a recipe that you should utilize again and again. It’s tremendous easy, and it retains very well.” Elmi provides that gnocchi are excellent for dinner events, the place you may make them forward of time and pull them out of the fridge to heat up with sauce proper earlier than serving.
Erace suggests the caramelized white chocolate pudding, however he additionally says the lobster, served with bourbon apple glaze, is an efficient begin. Plus, the glaze is flexible sufficient for use with different proteins. “You may pull the recipes aside, and take your favourite issues,” he says. “It may make you a greater cook dinner.”
In addition to giving readers concepts and strategies that may increase their culinary abilities and supply a window into Laurel, Elmi hopes the cookbook communicates one thing about his metropolis’s eating scene.
“For me, this was a chance to indicate what Philly is. Not that we’re championing and pioneering what’s occurring in Philadelphia. Extra like we are Philadelphia,” says the chef. “I believe it was cool to have the ability to say, ‘That is what can occur in Philadelphia.’”
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