French Twist

Chef and restaurateur Ludo Lefebvre dishes on how to get a coveted ticket to hot spot Trois Mec, his favorite Valley hangout and why you can judge a chef by his spoons.

When it comes to break- ing the rules, no one  does it better than Ludo Lefebvre. From the cult dining favorite LudoBites to LudoBird at the Staples Center to the casual/fine dining hybrid Trois Mec, the Sherman Oaks resident has established himself as one of the most exciting, critically acclaimed chefs in the world. Here he ruminates with Ventura Blvd editor-in-chief Linda Grasso on how he went from being called the king of pop-ups to what some critics are describing as the “flag carrier for modern fine dining.”

To critical acclaim you helmed the kitchens at L’Orangerie and Bastide. Then you basically experienced fame overnight with the pop-up concept LudoBites. What was that like?

LudoBites was an accident. I was trying to find a restaurant location, and it was not happening. I borrowed a friend’s bakery to cook so I didn’t go crazy. It quickly grew. Sam Sifton’s review of LudoBites 5.0 (New York Times) truly put it on the international map. The subsequent announcement by the Times of LudoBites 6.0, which actually took place right here on Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, solidified its importance to the dining scene.

Here in the Valley, we are used to dining in strip malls. But at Trois Mec (on Highland) you’ve left the former tenant’s big pizza sign displayed out front.

My messaging behind LudoBites was always, “You don’t eat the curtains and china.” People came for the food. I also learned from LudoBites that location really doesn’t matter. If you can produce a quality product, people will drive.
We did not intend to leave the pizza sign up originally, but it got so much attention from the press that we just did. Now there is no way we can take it down. People look for the sign.

Getting your hands on an $80 ticket can be frustrating. Why no regular reservations?

Restaurants operate on fairly low profit margins. Unfortunately the restaurant industry averages a 20+% no-show rate. With only 28 seats, the no-show rate alone would put us out of business.

Any inside tip?

The tables for a party of six don’t go nearly as fast as parties of two, which go pretty much instantaneously. Otherwise, look out for tweets and Facebook posts for last-minute reservations. The other option is through the MasterCard Priceless program. They have three reservations a week available for parties of two, exclusively for MasterCard holders.

I dined at Trois Mec in June. Wow! Smoked eel and white chocolate mashed potatoes? Rice pudding topped with an egg yolk? Both–crazy delicious. Who knew?

A restaurant should be an experience. I love to surprise guests but without being obnoxious. It is a fine balance. I work with real foods, real flavors and figure out how to put them together in new and interesting ways.

I understand you live in Sherman Oaks with your wife, Krissy, and twins. What attracted you here?

Sherman Oaks is a great place to live. We can walk to so many places. Plus we can live in a house that has an actual yard. It is fun when people come over and are shocked by the lot size. My beach friends are jealous.

What are some of your favorite local dining spots?

We are super regulars at Blue Dog Beer Tavern and Little Izaka-ya. The kids love both restaurants, and they are welcoming to us as a family. Krissy and I like to just walk to Blue Dog and have a beer fresh from the tap on a sunny afternoon.

What are your essential tools for cooking at home?

Most of my pots and pans are Le Creuset and de Buyer. I can cook anything in a Le Creuset Dutch oven—stews, searing meats or roasting vegetables. My favorite tool is a spoon. I have so many different spoons. I know it does not sound exciting, but it is true. You can judge a chef by his or her spoon collection.

Is there any ingredient you are really crazy about cooking with at this very moment?

Harissa. I love the spice. It has a gentle spiciness and a smoky flavor. I can find a way to use it on anything.

What is the absolute best dish you have been served anywhere in the world?

At my friend Eric Ripert’s restaurant in New York, Le Bernadin: uni, bone marrow, bacon. Amazing flavor between the iodine (sea flavor) from the uni, the fat from the bone marrow and crispy bacon, finished with little-dice marinated shallots. Simple, complex, perfectly balanced and delicious.

Of all your awards, accolades and achievements, what is it that makes you most proud in your life thus far?

My family. Plain and simple.