“French chef” and “badass” don’t usually work together in the same sentence, except in the case of tattoo-sleeved food maven Ludo Lefebvre. The classically trained, top-rated chef burst onto the scene with Ludo Bites, his innovative “pop-up restaurant” concept that began in LA and has swept the nation—even spawning a TV show, Ludo Bites America on Sundance Channel. We caught up with him at The Taste to talk temporary eateries, sexy meals and the future of food.
MADE MAN: The New York Times calls you “the impresario of pop-up dining.” How did you get involved with this movement?
LUDO LEFEBVRE: In 2007, when I was looking for a location to open a restaurant, it was very difficult to find a space because everything was very expensive. So, my friend had a little bakery called Breadbar, and it was closed during the night. I asked him if I could use it for the night and do a menu with special items. I made a deal with him and was paying rent, staff and suppliers, and operating like a real restaurant. I loved it and decided to do it again but find another location. I see myself more like a restaurant tour. We do it for a few months, so we’re not really a pop-up.
Food is like fashion: there are trends, but classics will always be in style.
MM: What are the advantages to this touring concept, and what type of food do you serve?
LL: When we change our location, we have a new menu. Every time it changes, we adapt to the new location. When I was at Breadbar, we had a French and California menu. At another place, Royal/T, which was a Japanese tea place, we changed the menu to reflect French and Japanese cuisine. In downtown it was Mexican. We have the freedom to do what we want, and I love it!
MM: What was it like competing on Top Chef Masters and Iron Chef America? How seriously did you take it?
LL: Two times I competed and two times I lost. But I don’t take it too seriously. It was fun because it’s not real. I mean, yes, it’s a competition, but it’s nice to spend time with other chefs. We have fun together.
MM: Any advice for guys on how to create a simple but impressive dish for a woman?
LL: Don’t forget about good taste. It must have flavor—maybe a little spicy and romantic. And add some edible flowers. Women like flowers.
MM: What makes food sexy?
LL: Something very simple. Two or three items on your plate, but not overdone. Keep it simple.
MM: What are your favorite restaurants in L.A.?
LL: I don’t really have one favorite. I go out a lot and love to see what other chefs are doing. I love Son of a Gun, I love Melisse, and I love Mozza. After that, there are so many Asian and Mexican restaurants I like, but I don’t remember the names.
MM: Time Magazine called you “the chef of the future.” What direction do you see food headed in the next 10 years?
LL: We are going back to the classics and more simple foods. There were some movements like molecular gastronomy. It was great to find some new techniques and play with food, but at the end of the day, that trend is gone. Food is like fashion: there are always trends, but classics will always be in style. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older, but now I like dishes cooked simply with good techniques but that are still very interesting—classics with a twist. It’s not easy to cook a simple dish and make it amazing. There’s nowhere to hide on the plate.
You can follow Ludo Lefebvre on Twitter here.
Photography: Stephanie Nelson