Nicholas Elmi

Nicholas Elmi

Chef and Owner of Nicholas Elmi Restaurants

I treat my team the way I would have liked to have been treated growing up in the industry. Don’t micromanage. Teach what is learned. Encourage rather than berate. Create a positive environment.

When I was very young working in a country club, my chef told me: “Cows aren’t square.” At the time, it seemed like a pretty simple advice that relates to butchering and manipulating mise en place – but as the years go by, I think about it more and more and realize that it’s about adaptability and open-mindedness. Can you achieve the same goal when things aren’t perfect? Can you make do with what you have?
I worked at Guy Savoy in Paris in my late twenties and it impacted me in a very profound way: I learned what can be done when you establish a culture of excellence. If you set your expectations to perfection and never waver, you can achieve incredible things.
Focus, repetition and speed are the most important skills to possess as a chef. If you can laser focus on what your responsibilities are, do it perfectly over and over again and build the speed to do it efficiently, you will be successful.
Willingness to learn is what I essentially look for when hiring. I'm at a point where I feel I can teach anybody anything, if they are willing to learn.
I would not be able to do my job without my palate. I’ve spent countless years and resources discerning the difference between bad, good, great, and exceptional. It’s very important that younger chefs actually spend time tasting several versions of the same dish, and try to figure out the difference in quality and why. It’s invaluable in creating your own style.
I find inspiration everywhere: my family, nature, art, new ingredients and processes, reading what other chefs are doing. One herb, one juice, or one pickle can inspire a dish that can help you change the structure of an entire menu.
Culture is the most important ingredient in a chef’s repertoire.
I never had an "aha moment” – my love for food has just slowly grown stronger and stronger through the years. I cooked through my teens and early twenties because I thought it was cool and it put money in my pocket. As I grew older, and grew as a chef, I realized the endless possibilities of being a chef/restaurateur. Every day brings a different set of challenges, different ingredients and new people into your life.

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