Acclaimed chef-owner Nicholas Elmi offers an intimate look inside Laurel with his first cookbook.
Nicholas Elmi owns more than 300 cookbooks. So when the chef-owner of award-winning French-American restaurant Laurel (1617 E. Passyunk Ave., 215.271.8299, restaurantlaurel.com) began work on his first publishing project, he had a clear vision.
“A lot of cookbooks can get a little long-winded,” says Elmi, seated inside Laurel’s 22-seat dining room on a late-August afternoon. He owns cocktail bar In the Valley next door and Old City’s Royal Boucherie. “I didn’t want anything biographical—I wanted it to be about the food and the restaurant.” Elmi does just that in the newly released Laurel: Modern American Flavors in Philadelphia ($35, Running Press), a handsome 224-page tome centered around four nine-course tasting menus, one for each season, featuring recipes from Laurel’s past and present, and new dishes Elmi is developing. Each recipe includes a brief introduction from the chef, peppered with personal anecdotes and preparation tips.
That’s where co-author Adam Erace—a national food and travel writer and fellow East Passyunk business owner—comes in. “I had a relationship with Nick through Green Aisle Grocery,” says Erace, adding that this is his first cookbook as well. “He’s not only immensely talented, but has a lot of personal integrity as a chef.” Philly photographer Neal Santos rounded out the roster of local collaborators, capturing vivid, moody photographs of each dish, interspersed with candids of Elmi at work.
“Readers will be able to appreciate that we’re in Philly,” says Elmi, who will host a series of events for the book throughout the fall. “I wanted to make sure that we represented Philadelphia well.”