Krissy Lefebvre and Lucy Lean ARE dreamers. Lefebvre, a lawyer and former contestant on The Apprentice, and Lean, the former editor of edible Los Angeles, have partnered up with AEG to create the All-Star Chef Classic, where, thanks to an innovative “Restaurant Stadium” concept, chefs are the stars of the show. For the event’s second annual inception, the pals have ambitiously broadened their horizons and added more chefs, more events (this year American and British masters have been added to the roster), and more star power to the unique culinary experience. Expect to see famous culinary faces like Dominique Crenn, Michael Cimarusti, Josiah Citrin, Sherry Yard, Nancy Silverton, Suzanne Goin, Wylie Dufresne, and, of course, Krissy’s husband Ludo Lefebvre, grilling and chilling, creating cuisine for a cure and teaching kids to cook March 11-14 at L.A. Live. Here, the brains behind the operation discuss their unique concept, their favorite culinary all-stars, and why it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that drinking games might be on the table at All-Star (again) this year.
How did you come up with the idea for the All-Star Chef Classic?
Krissy: I used to be in-house council for the Staples Center. I’ve known Lee Zeidman, the president of the Staples Center and L.A. Live, for 15 years. Lee came to me and said, ‘I’m looking to do a food event. Why don’t you come up with a concept and pitch it to us?’ Ludo and I had been talking about doing an event for a long time—he’s always had the dream to cook in a round much like rock stars play in the round. So we thought, ‘Why can’t we build a kitchen in the round?’ and that’s where the idea for Restaurant Stadium was born. So I went back to Lee and said, ‘I have an idea. It’s not like anything that’s ever been done before’ and also said, of course, that I needed Lucy with me.
How do you select the chefs that take part?
Krissy: That’s top secret.
Lucy: It’s a very detailed process that goes on. They have to have various hoops that they’ve jumped through. [It’s based on] what’s best for the event, who people know, and who cooks to a very high level but isn’t necessarily a national Food Network star. There are so many different factors.
Do you ask the chefs to participate, or vice versa?
Lucy: Both! I know a lot of chefs personally as friends as well as by working with them. You have to be careful. Everybody wants to do it, and there are only 30 slots.
Krissy: It’s all about relationships. In the first year, people had to trust us to do a food event in a space that’s already so cluttered—there are so many food events.
Lucy: When we were asked by AEG to put on a food event, we were both excited to do it, but we said that if we were going to do it, it would have to be completely different from anything else. We wanted to elevate [the event] so that it was quality over quantity.
What sets your event apart?
Lucy: The ratio of chefs to attendees. You don’t get that anywhere else. You go and get your food and you can chat with Nancy Silverton, or have your photo taken with Graham Elliot. You can actually go up to them and take a selfie and ask them about the dish.
Krissy: We really try to keep the attendance number low enough that there’s still the one-on-one interaction.
Lucy: You get to eat what [the chefs have] made for you, you get to watch them make it, and at the same time they’re giving you cooking tips and they’re discussing their philosophy about food and their relationships with each other.
Krissy: Drinking games usually start. At last year’s French Masters, as [the chefs] got toward the end of the meal, the pressure was off. It was the first time ever and they were the first group of chefs to have ever done it, and they just wanted to celebrate.
Lucy: It was a bit like a theatre production where the curtain comes up and they’re done with their performance, and they can let off steam a little bit. It was fun because the audience could join in as well.
Krissy: Ludo invited them all down to the floor. That was our surprise for the evening.
Lucy: We had lots and lots of other chefs seated in the front row of Restaurant Stadium, and they were called up and included in the drinking games. It was fun.
Where do you see the All-Star Chef Classic going in the future?
Lucy: Why would we change anything that’s not broken? We’ve streamlined [this year’s event] so that we’re not going to be running around like crazy people.
Krissy: This year we’ve added on British and American masters. Next year what will we do? The stadium setting is so unique that it doesn’t make sense to change up that experience; it’s such a hard ticket to get. But do we [invite] Japanese masters too and bring in crazy woks?
Lucy: Within the formula, there will be changes. We have a lot of pressure to make the experience bigger, but we want to cap it at 300 people so the experience is fine dining and the food that the chefs are preparing is at a certain level. We have certain boundaries in place.
What other projects are the two of you working on together?
Krissy: We just finished the 10th anniversary of Crave, Ludo’s cookbook. We produced a 10th anniversary edition and reshot about 90 percent of the photos.
Lucy: We didn’t change the recipes. It was photographing them in such a way to make them more accessible. Brighter and happier and ‘Oh, I could really cook that.’ I’m also supposed to take a bunch of chefs to a resort in Mexico. I take chefs on fishing trips, so we’re tossing around the idea of taking an international fishing trip with chefs. It’s called Go Fish L.A. I take about twenty to thirty chefs, and they all bring something to share to eat. It started when I was at edible. I rang up Michael Cimarusti and said, ‘You fish! I want to take you fishing.’ He was like, ‘Sure!’ so we went on a fishing trip together for a story. The next day at the farmer’s market, all the other chefs were like ‘Why didn’t you take me fishing? I want to go fishing!’
Do you feel like chefs are the new celebrities? Why or why not?
Lucy: No, that simplifies it. It’s All-Star Chef Classic. The chefs are the stars of the event. We don’t bring in celebrity to boost the event. That’s the essence of the All-Star Chef Classic: we respect the chef.
Krissy: Food has become so mainstream. Television has created celebrity out of food. Unfortunately, most television celebrities aren’t actually the real chefs. Not that I don’t love people who are on television—because my husband is on television—but he also happens to run two of the best restaurants in Los Angeles [Trois Mec and Petit Trois].
Have you thought about having rock stars learn to cook from chefs?
Lucy: Possibly. We go back and forth about it, [but we think it] takes the focus off the chefs. Why do you need the singer?
Krissy: You’re a master of what you do. Would there be something that develops out of it? Maybe. But for now, the chefs are the all-stars.