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Checking In With 'Top Chef' Winner Nicholas Elmi

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Checking In With 'Top Chef' Winner Nicholas Elmi

All about his new restaurant—and what competition show he'd tackle next.

Nicholas Elmi may have become a household name after winning Top Chef earlier this year, but he's not so sure he would want to enter a competition show again.

"I don’t think so. The only one I would maybe do would be Iron Chef and I would only go on if they let me go up against Morimoto. I feel like he's the biggest badass out there," he tells Zagat. "No offense to anyone else on that show, but if I was going to go on, I’d want to beat the best person there."

However, that competitive spirit is one of the reasons why he was drawn to the idea of doing Top Chef in the first place.

"We’re all working for the same common goal, and the reason why the show appealed to me was that I could actually go up against other people, and there’s a direct result. It levels the playing field also because the outside world stuff (Zagat rating, reviews from critics, etc.) doesn't matter when you're both facing the same challenge. But then again, food is so subjective," he says. "You could love a dish I made and another person could hate it. And you face that every day as a chef."

Fans got to know Nicholas over the course of season 11. And, he knew going into the show, he would try to stay as real as possible.

"I have a tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve. There were things that my wife and I discussed before the show, and she was like, 'Do you really want people to know these things about you?' I could probably fake it for a week or two, but I couldn't do it the whole eight weeks," he explains. "If there were people in the kitchen who I thought were a--holes then I would just tell them, I don’t give a s---. My Northeast sense of sarcasm doesn't help either, it makes me sound more callous than I am."

The Massachusetts native currently works in Philadelphia, where he owns the restaurant Laurel. It seems Philly residents share a similar candor to his own.

"The people here are very honest. The best part about Philly people is there’s no bulls---, they don’t want any gimmicks, anything frou frou. They want to be able to see your face and shake your hand. If they don’t like it, they’ll tell you in a good way. It’s hard for us to have regulars, we do have a fair amount," he says. "After Top Chef, especially, the demand was so high and our space is so small. It's tricky."

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