Today is the final day of LudoBites, the ragingly successful pop-up restaurant helmed by French chef Ludo Lefebvre. We missed our chance to go last week when we came down with a nasty cold. We sent a friend in our stead, who reported being stuffed with rich and richly made food. So jealous. We asked the Chef a few questions about his run at Royal T and tried to coax out his favorite Christmas recipe in time for the holidays
This is the third time you’ve done LudoBites. What did you do differently this time around? What do you think of the positive reaction to the pop-up restaurant? This is the third time we have done LudoBites, so this time people know what LudoBites is. The first time no one really knew until the last few weeks, and the second time was still an education period. LudoBites @ Royal/T is really the first time that we did not have to explain the concept. We were so amazed at how fast the event at Royal/T sold out. We never never never expected it. We are just thankful that the reaction has been so positive.
What is the hardest part of doing a pop-up restaurant? It is like starting a new restaurant every time. It is a new location, new staff and a new kitchen. My menu is dictated by the size and space of the kitchen. We don’t really have a real training period because the business model does not allow for it, especially this time around since we are only open for 15 days. Most restaurants would spend a couple weeks training kitchen and back of house staff. We would be closed before we opened if we did that. I do everything: order, prep, cook, train. It is very long hours, and with no day off for 10 days (at Royal/T) it is challenging physically and emotionally.
What has been your favorite dish or dishes during this run of LudoBites? All and nothing. I never have favorites. I know it sounds strange but I just love to cook and if the guests are happy then I am happy. As soon as I love something I usually take it off the menu because I need to keep challenging myself. I could not change the menu too much this time though because of the kitchen space, so I guess by the time we close I love every dish and they will all be my favorites. I did bring back my tuna sashimi with sushi rice ice cream from my Bastide days. I loved it then and I love it now. It is a very refreshing and surprising dish.
What are your future plans for LudoBites? How long will we have to wait till you do it again? I have no idea. I would love to travel around the world doing LudoBites. I love to travel and explore. I do not know if that is realistic or not but it would be so amazing. I definitely hope to “pop-up” again no later than March. Maybe it will be earlier. I just don’t know. I can’t just sit home and do nothing.
Are you a fan of the food trucks? Which ones do you like the best? I understand why food trucks started. I think it is the same reason I started LudoBites. It is so expensive to start a restaurant. If people are excited about your food and you can bring it to them in different areas of the city with a much lower overhead cost, then why not? Food trucks probably seem easy to the general public but I am sure that they are not, just like LudoBites is not easy. I have never been to a food truck yet though. Maybe after we close LudoBites at Royal/T I can get out and try a few.
What the best L.A secret you can share? (secret driving route, bar, club, restaurant?) I don’t know if it is the best LA secret, but now that I live in Manhattan Beach I can say that Culver Blvd is a godsend if you want to go into West Hollywood or Hollywood from the South Bay. The 405 is simply a nightmare, but the drive along the coast to Culver Blvd, cutting up Robertson, allows me to keep my sanity.
What the most true cliche about Los Angeles? The BBD. The bigger better deal. LA is about what is hot at the moment – think movies, TV shows, restaurants, bars, clothing stores, etc. There is not a lot of loyalty in this town and it is a very young town. Something or someone can be so hot one minute and just dead the next.
As a highly acclaimed chef, you must have some good recipes for the holidays. What do you make for Christmas? Can you share a favorite recipe with us? I am going to spend Christmas with my wife’s family in the mountains in Colorado. I am going to make a traditional turkey Christmas dinner. I did not cook for Thanksgiving so I am looking forward to cooking the big bird. I love to massage the bird with cream and butter. I make a stuffing that has foie gras, sausage, mushroom and dried apricots. I don’t really have a recipe for it; I just do what feels right. People should be creative when they cook and always cook with love—your family will appreciate it.