What I also like about LA is really the different cultures we have here – they’ve really influenced my style of cooking.
If there was a more highly anticipated restaurant opening in 2013 than Ludo Lefebvre’s new venture Trois Mec, color us shocked. The pop-up impresario has finally settled down in a virtually hidden 26-seat space in Hancock Park that’s so VIP its patrons don’t even have a choice in what to order – it’s Ludo’s way or the highway. We chatted to the TV-friendly chef who’s appeared on everything from Top Chef Masters to The Taste to Hell’s Kitchen about his new eatery to why he’d prefer to be a professor over a celebrity any day of the week.
How did the partnership with Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo come about?
I’ve been friends with Jon and Vinny for two years now. We wanted to do a little fried chicken concept restaurant together and it changed into a refined restaurant. I wanted something that would bring good hospitality to my guests but not in a frou frou way.
How did you find the space? It’s fairly hidden.
We drove around town looking for the perfect spot and saw this space and liked it. Because we were originally going to open the fried chicken concept, it was a fit. Now, people are like ‘Wow!’ You’re surprised when you walk in. It’s beautiful.
Why the decision to have a set-price menu?
With a set price menu, it’s easier for me to prep and make sure the food is fresh every day. If you serve a la carte and order 36 sea bass and only 15 are served that night, you’re serving sea bass again the next day. It’s not fresh enough. With a set menu, I can really give the best quality of ingredients to my customer.
Do you have any plans to expand to other cities?
No, it’s too early. I want to be patient and work on this restaurant for now. Of course, I love new projects, but I won’t look at anything for six months perhaps until this space is settled.
You’ve appeared on a plethora of TV shows. How do you feel about the term “celebrity chef?”
Whatever. If people want to call me a celebrity chef, fine. I’m on TV, fine. Every day when I’m not on TV, I’m in the kitchen; I’m cooking; it’s my job. I’m still a real chef, a real cook. I don’t live for TV. I don’t live to be a celebrity; it just happened by coincidence. I was never looking for that. But I got the opportunity, so I did it. I had opportunities to do other shows after ABC’s The Taste, but I said no.
Jose Andres teaches a class at George Washington University. Would you ever do the same?
Yes, I’d do it but I’ve been cooking for 27 years and I still don’t think I know enough about food! To be a teacher is a big responsibility. I’m learning every day, discovering new techniques and new flavors. If I were cooking the same thing every day, I wouldn’t be a chef anymore. I’d quit my job. I’d lose the passion of cooking.
What are your favorite restaurants in LA?
I like the Coffee Commissary on Fairfax, Park’s BBQ for Korean, Sycamore Kitchen and I love Melisse. For Japanese I like Urasawa. I go once every few months and spend a lot of money, but when I’m going somewhere to eat, I want the best. I don’t want to go eat simple food — I can do that at home.
On an off night when you don’t feel like cooking for yourself, what do you eat at home?
Cereal for sure. It’s Cheerios at home, or I make a quick stop somewhere. When I was young, I was going out every night; now I go home and eat Cheerios.
What do you love about LA?
As a chef, I love all the farmers market we have here in California; it’s better here than in New York. I love the sea. I love surfing. What I also like about LA is really the different cultures we have here – they’ve really influenced my style of cooking.