Chef Ludovic Lefebvre of Bastide - Los Angeles Rising Star on

Photo Credit: Jon Deshler

Ludovic Lefebvre
8475 Melrose Pl.
Los Angeles, CA 90069
(323) 651-5950

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Antoinette Bruno: Why did you start cooking? What or who inspired you to become a chef?
Ludovic LeFebvre: I was raised in Burgundy and my grandma was a big cook. She picked me up after school and we cooked dinner together every night.

AB: Did you attend culinary school?
LL: I trained at L’Espérance, Pierre Gagnaire, L’Arpège, and Le Grande Véfour (all three are Michelin-star rated).

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Ludovic Lefebvre
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.”

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Interview Cont'd
AB: Who are your mentors? What are some of the most important things you’ve learned from them?
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 kitchen tool?
LL: Salt – I can’t imagine cooking without it. And my Pacojet for ice creams, sorbets, and mousses.

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 cookbooks?
LL: Fernand 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 Balthazar.

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   Published: May 2006