BASTIDE | Los Angeles
Ludovic Lefebvre, the passionate 34-year-old who gained notoriety
in Los Angeles as the executive chef at L’Orangerie,
was appointed head chef at Bastide last year—one
of the country’s most decorated restaurants.
At L’Orangerie, Lefebvre earned a reputation of
combining old world simplicity with subtly exotic new world flavors.
At Bastide, he has intensified his proprietary world spice
combinations and has created a truly epic culinary adventure. While
the menu maintains its French foundation, it travels beyond those
borders into new territory. “The Bastide menu will constantly
evolve with my skill set and interests. Having traveled extensively,
I am inspired by the local flavors from around the world. I love
to read local cookbooks and I am usually pouring over three at a
time,” says the heavily accented chef. “I want to respect
the past, but live in the present,” he adds.
He also receives inspiration from the art world. His vision is
to display unusual spices throughout the restaurant like art, as
if they are priceless museum pieces. Ultimately, Lefebvre brings
science into his cooking. He experiments with diverse ingredients,
blends them at a fast pace, and creates explosive recipes. Lefebvre
titles the end result, “molecule cuisine.” His kitchen
sends out French food with a scientific twist; the dishes are put
together carefully so that each flavor of food compliments the other.
Growing up in Burgundy, Lefebvre used to be a self-described “trouble
maker.” When he was not roaming the streets with his rough
crowd, he was developing a passion for cooking by spending hours
in the kitchen with his grand-mère.
When he entered his teen years he proclaimed his desire to be a
chef. At 13 his father begrudgingly took him to a local restaurant,
Maxime, and told them to assign the worst job to him, believing
that he would quit after a couple of weeks. “I loved it, peeling
potatoes, onions, washing dishes, I was eager to learn,” remembers
Lefebvre. That ambition has guided his career to some of the world’s
most renowned restaurants. He has trained under chefs Marc Meneau
at the legendary restaurant L’Esperance; Pierre
Gagnaire at Saint-Etienne; served as the personal chef for
the Defense Minister; and Alain Passard at L’Arpege,
one of Paris’ most prestigious restaurants; then finally to
the three-star Michelin restaurant Le Grand Vefour before
immigrating to the United States in 1996.
“I wanted to work in Los Angeles to have more freedom to
experiment,” reflecting his desire to move. “Cooking
is all about taking risks and learning everyday! If I am not learning,
I get bored.”
AB: Who are your mentors?
What are some of the most important things you’ve learned
LL: Pierre Gagnaire helped
teach me creativity and how to take risks. With Alain Passard I
learned to respect the fire and how to cook the ingredients. I call
it the School of Fire – you learn how to control the fire
and play with the fire. And Guy Martin is a very great businessman,
and he taught me that side of cooking.
AB: What is your philosophy
on food and dining?
LL: I respect the past and
live in the present, but am looking to the future. Taste is a thing
you are never going to forget.
AB: Are there any secret ingredients
that you especially like?
LL: I use a lot of spices,
almost 200 different ones. I like to learn about the culture and
history of the spice. Vadouvan is my secret weapon.
AB: What is your most indispensable
LL: Salt – I can’t
imagine cooking without it. And my Pacojet for ice creams, sorbets,
AB: Is there a culinary technique
that you have either created or use in an unusual way?
LL: Making chantilly with butter
or fat. I learned this technique with Pierre Gagnaire. I take a
fat like butter, melt it, then put it in a bowl on ice and whip
it like a chantilly cream.
AB: What is your favorite
question to ask during an interview for a potential new line cook?
LL: Why have you decided to
be a chef? I want them to demonstrate their passion.
AB: What tips would you offer
young chefs just getting started?
LL: Cooking is all about passion
and patience. They should try to learn from everyone else, and they
need to listen and learn. Cooking is about love.
AB: What are your favorite
Point’s Le Pyramide Cookbook.
AB: What cities do you like
for culinary travel?
LL: I loved traveling through
China. I loved the ingredients and the spices. I love to use unusual
spices and surprise people.
AB: What are your favorite
restaurants – off the beaten path – in Los Angeles?
LL: For sushi I like Katsu-ya.
They have a seared albacore tuna sashimi that’s really good.
The crab is also dynamite. Also, I like La Cantina on Ventura Blvd.
I love the ambience of the kitchen. I eat the mussels and fries.
AB: What trends do you see
emerging in the restaurant industry now?
LL: El Bulli. Everyone’s
speaking about the Spanish chefs.
AB: Where do you see yourself
in 5 –10 years?
LL: I want to still be in small
fine dining, but I also want to expand into casual dining, like