Elm Restaurant in New Canaan celebrated 10 years this April. Serendipity chatted with Chef Luke Venner about the anniversary, ingredients, community & more!

Chef Luke Venner

Tell us more about the 10th Anniversary of Elm. What are you excited about?

Our mission at Elm has always been to create a warm and comforting experience for New Canaan community. Our 10 year anniversary is exciting because we can see how that mission has come to life and get to celebrate that with our loyal customer base!

In 2015, I came on board and pivoted the original concept to still offer an unparalleled culinary experience but become more of an approachable, family-friendly, neighborhood restaurant because I felt like that was what town was lacking and would help us stay true to our mission. We love the community of regulars we’ve built and the quality of the ingredients has always stayed a top priority. We often see customers 3x a week at the bar and have enjoyed fostering personal relationships with them over the years. 

What is something that has stayed consistent over the past 10 years of Elm? 

Our attention to detail and customer service approach as well as an ingredient driven menu that focuses on quality first.

Are there dishes that you have incorporated into the menu that you couldn’t have imagined 10 years ago?

While salads are a staple item on most menus, I never imagined putting much thought into them – they seem simple to me. But one day I was walking through the restaurant and noticed a table of four women who had all ordered the same salad. It then occurred to me that I needed to build out this portion of the menu to meet the needs of our customers – no one wants to order the same salad as everyone at the table. We now have 5 salads on the menu and they are a huge hit!

What new things have you been working on lately? 

We are launching a house bottle of rosé launching this spring. More on that to come! 

What are some of your favorite ingredients to use in the kitchen?

Anything seasonal and anything local. My favorite part of being a chef is using ingredients readily available by our local purveyors. In addition to our regular menu, we have a small “from the market” card that we place on the tables. Everything on that menu is something I am personally preparing and have developed using seasonal ingredients. It allows me to be creative with our specials while incorporating the best the area has to offer! 

We know you are not going to want to pick a favorite but what are your top three dishes currently on the menu?

I am a big fan of our pastas, as are a lot of our customers. My personal favorite is the Lumache – which is a spicy pork bolognese with honey and oregano. Our Animal Style Burger is probably the biggest crowd pleaser on the menu. It was created on a whim for a California themed pop-up dinner we did many years ago as an homage to the famous fast food chain In-N-Out Burger. I had no intentions of serving it beyond that night, but woke up to several texts/emails the next morning urging me to serve it for one more service. I had to make a quick decision and the rest is history. Another personal favorite is the Wagyu Brisket from our ‘From The Smoker’ portion of the menu, which is only served on Fridays and Saturdays. 

We are obsessed with Elm’s coastal flair, how would you describe the environment of Elm for someone who has never been?

It’s a super welcoming environment with something for everyone. We have a 12 seat bar and some bigger booths to accommodate groups and families. The entrance faces out to Elm street and we have floor to ceiling windows that give us great light all through the day and early evening. Even on the coldest winter days you still get that coastal Connecticut feeling!

What do you envision happening in Elm’s next 10 years?

We want to continue being an amenity to the community and growing with and for our customers. I’ve always admired places like Union Square Cafe and Spago that have continued to evolve over decades without ever losing touch of the style that defined them. I think that is the future of Elm.