Before introducing his wildly popular LudoBites restaurant event in Los Angeles, Chef Ludovic Lefebvre made a name for himself as the executive chef at L’Orangerie and Bastide—two of the city’s most famous and luxurious restaurants—where he quickly established a reputation for his ability to combine Old World simplicity and New World imagination in innovative dishes to tantalize diners’ taste buds with subtly exotic flavors. Ludovic—or “Ludo”—Lefebvre is the only chef in Los Angeles to receive the prestigious Mobil Travel Guide Five Star Award at two different restaurants, L’Orangerie in 1999 and 2000 and Bastide in 2006. Although only in his mid 30’s, Ludo has been named one of the World’s 50 Greatest Chefs by Relais & Chateaux and was nominated by the James Beard Foundation for a Rising Star Chef Award. Ludo has been seen on such shows as Top Chef Masters, Iron Chef America and The Today Show.
Ludo’s love of cooking began when he was a boy in Auxerre, France, and was inspired in large part by his grandmother. When he was 13, his father sent young Ludo to train at Maxime, a restaurant in his hometown, where he worked diligently to gain acceptance into France’s grueling culinary apprentice system. One year later, he
granted an apprenticeship under the renowned chef Marc Meneau at the legendary restaurant L’Esperance in Vezelay, Burgundy. Ludo then went on to train under the legendary chef Pierre Gagnaire and credits him with first encouraging him to experiment with spices and unusual flavor combinations. After military duty as personal chef for the French Minister of Defense, Ludo spent four intensive years with his most influential teacher, Chef Alain Passard, at L’Arpege, one of Paris’s most prestigious restaurants.
“The pressure at L’Arpege was unrelenting and Passard was so picky, such a perfectionist, as all great chefs are, but I learned so much from him,” Ludo recalls.
One crucial lesson was “L’Ecole du feu,” which translates to “The School of Fire.” This philosophy of cooking holds that heat is the single most important element in cuisine and, used properly, is like a scalpel in the hands of a skilled surgeon.
Ludo’s next move was to the Three-Star Michelin restaurant Le Grand Vefour, where he worked side–by-side with famous chef Guy Martin. “I was so fortunate to learn the culinary arts away from formal schooling, working eighteen-hour days in the kitchens of the master chefs of Europe,” says Ludo of his start-at-the-bottom training. The classically trained young chef dreamed of coming to the U.S., where he would be free to experiment and combine the exciting cross-cultural flavors he loved with the classic techniques he’d perfected under his prestigious teachers.
In 1996, his mentor Meneau recommended him to L’Orangerie’s owners, Gerard and Virginie Ferry, and he was hired as chef de partie. When he arrived in the United States, he spoke no English. But within five months of his arrival, was promoted to Executive Chef – a daunting position for a young man who had not yet mastered the language. However, his talent, spirit, and perseverance prevailed and Ludo’s innovative dishes delighted the West Hollywood restaurant’s A-list clientele, earning the fabled restaurant a new spot in Gourmet magazine’s “Top Tables”, and Ludo a reputation as L.A.’s most innovative and adventurous chef—a reputation that he upholds today.
Ludo’s first cookbook, CRAVE, A Feast of the Five Senses (Regan Books) was released to rave reviews in May 2005. In the fall of 2007, Ludo introduced Los Angeles to a four-month special dining event called LudoBites. LudoBites had the feel a neighborhood tapas restaurant and was dubbed a “transforming moment in the Los Angeles restaurant scene” and getting a seat “was harder than getting into than UCLA film school,” wrote Jonathan Gold of LA Weekly, as well as delivering one of LA Weekly’s “Top 10 Dishes of 2007” with its Lobster Udon. LudoBites @ Breabar 2009 earned rave reviews, a place on Mr. Gold’s “99 Most Essential Restaurants of Los Angeles” and created a star dish, Chilled Liquified Chorizo Soup that made Mr. Gold’s “Top 10 Dishes of 2009.” Following such praise LudoBites @ Royal/T entire stand sold out in 1.5 days after being announced. LudoBites will continue to “pop-up” around town to the delight of Los Angeles diners. Ludo and his wife of 10 years, Kristine, an attorney, reside in Manhattan Beach, California.