Chef Ludo Lefebvre On 'Ludo Bites America,' Style & Swearing
Who: Chef Ludo Lefebvre.
Current Gig: The French chef runs a pop-up restaurant called "LudoBites," and its seventh iteration is set to run from August 3 to September 10 at Gram and Papa's in Downtown LA (sadly, it's already sold out, but here's how you can check for any cancellations). His new show "Ludo Bites America" takes him across the country to sample American cuisine and "pop up" with a recreation of the city's classic foods. It premiered on Sundance a few weeks ago, and you can catch it on Tuesdays at 9 p.m.
Neighborhood: Sherman Oaks.
What did you learn about America and American food from "Ludo Bites America"?
I had no idea what was American food before the show. American food is so different state to state, it is crazy. In France, you pretty [much] know what is French food, but America is a big melting pot of so many different cultures and cuisines. It was really great to taste so much new food to me.
At least from the first episode, it seems you have some pretty explosive reactions with the restaurant that helps host your pop up. Do you always kiss and make up afterward?
I am always grateful to any restaurant that hosts a LudoBites for us. If it wasn't for our partners our business would not exist. But we try to make it mutually beneficial and unfortunately we dealt with a partner that just did not seem to care if we were there. So the answer is no, we don't always kiss and make up. 95% of the time is really positive for everyone, but sometimes things just don't work out.
Out of the cities you visited, which was your favorite, and which surprised you the most?
Raleigh, North Carolina was my favorite. The city was so alive. So many cities, including Los Angeles, have "for rent" signs everywhere. Just an indication of failed businesses, but in Raleigh, restaurants and bars were busting at the seams with customers. I really felt like everyone was embracing business and the food scene.
We heard you were going to do a pop up in New York! Please don't tell us you're scouting for a new permanent pop-up location!
No, not a permanent pop-up location, not yet at least. But I say never say never in life. Right now I am excited to just go to New York for a LudoBites tour stop. We are still trying to find the right location, so nothing is finalized yet.
What are the pros and cons of having a pop-up restaurant?
Pros: Lower overhead, no investors, work for myself, operate when I want to, cook what I want, cook where I want to. Really it is about my freedom.
Cons: I am limited in my menu sometimes by the equipment in the restaurant, I need to build a menu that can be accommodated by the kitchen. I am also very limited by the staff. Because I can't offer fulltime employment it can be difficult to get the best of the best out there. I work with a lot of students so I spend a lot more time training than if I had a fulltime staff.
What local flavors in LA inspire your cooking?
I am very inspired by the Mexican/Latino flavors, as well as the flavors of the many different Asian cultures that have such a strong presence in Los Angeles. My style is very personal, but I am influenced by everyone. I can find inspiration at friends' houses for dinner, at a restaurant, or simply reading. I am an avid reader of cookbooks.
Favorite swear word (or phrase) in the kitchen?
I don't swear because I like it. It comes out of frustration and sometimes I don't realize how much I swear. English is not my first language and unfortunately you learn the bad/swear words first. I am going to find a new word, maybe fudge.
Craziest thing you've ever overheard in your restaurant?
It was not overheard, it was actually said to me. A customer once told me I [made] her orgasm in her mouth (and was acting the part for me). It was quite uncomfortable because I am actually a bit shy.
Do you follow any up and coming foodies or chefs?
I follow a lot of people. It is always about research and education. Jo Stougaard (MyLastBite.com) is a great source of everything going on in the food industry and with chefs.
Now that you have kids, have your favorite hang outs changed? What places in LA are baby friendly that surprised you?
The babies are only 3 months old, so our favorite hang out right now is home. We have not had the opportunity to test out "family" friendly places yet. I can let you know in a few months when it is more appropriate to take to the babies out.
Craziest thing you’ve seen in LA?
Rollerskating man on Robertson every day for at least 10 years. Now that is what I call consistency.
What’s your go-to drink and where are your favorite haunts to find it?
We don't really go out to drink. Unfortunately it is tough because we don't want to drink and drive, so I think the "drinking" scene in LA suffers at times. We do drop by the Varnish on the way home some nights for an after service cocktail, but really that is about it.
Favorite food truck (outside your own, of course)?
Do you have a song that reminds you of Los Angeles?
When I arrived in 1996, Sheryl Crow's "All I Wanna Do" was very popular. It really brings a smile to my face remembering my first memories of Los Angeles.
Do you have a movie that reminds you of Los Angeles?
Why do you love Los Angeles?
It has such a wide variety of cultures and cuisines. It is truly a melting pot. I don't think another U.S. city has such a wide diversity of cultures, but I may be wrong. I will let you know as I learn more about America. Of course, there is the weather. How do you beat the weather?
Why do you hate Los Angeles?
TRAFFIC, TRAFFIC, TRAFFIC.