With a forearm full of tattoos and roving kitchen that cooks up miracles with everything from local produce to foie gras and escargots, Chef Ludo Lefebvre is on a mission.
After making a name for himself in the Los Angeles restaurant scene with stints at L’Orangerie and Bastide (you may also recognize him from his two appearances on Top Chef Masters), Lefebvre was searching for something new and a way to create dishes without boundaries. His insatiable hunger to find the best ingredients, the most authentic foods from around the world and to honor his roots in French cooking led to the creation of LudoBites.
In this roving restaurant, known in the culinary world as an aptly named pop-up restaurant, Ludo has become a cause celebre. Reservations at LudoBites are so in demand the day they become available that they have crashed the Open Table site with an overwhelming number of requests.
Now Lefevbre and his wife and business partner Krissy are literally taking their show on the road. As if changing location in Los Angeles for LudoBites was not challenging enough, they are currently touring America and popping up in six states to bring the magic of LudoBites around the country. And the Sundance Channel’s cameras are along for the ride, currently documenting the couple’s adventures – from watching Ludo hold a raw buffalo to seeing him create a red chile kettle corn for in Santa Fe – for their upcoming show Ludo Bites America.
If all of this talk of food whets your appetite, you can take a peak into the world of LudoBites with the 5 part series that chronicles the food, the staff, the dining experience, and explains what it all means. After eating at four of the LudoBites location and tasting some of the most delicious and creative dishes I could ever imagine (e.g. chorizo soup with cantaloupe and cornichon ice or poached roasted pickled foie gras with acacia honey, autumn fruits, and roses) you can trust me when I say Ludos makes exceptional food that is both gorgeous and delicious.
We caught up with Krissy Lefebvre to find out more about the new web series and the upcoming Sundance Channel show while they were on the road on Colorado getting ready to pop up in Denver with an all buffalo menu.
Tubefilter: You are currently premiering episodes of a 5 part web series about LudoBites. How did the idea of the webisodes come about?
Krissy Lefebvre: Each LudoBites is so special to us. It is hard to explain to people who have never heard of it or who are not able to attend. We wanted to document some of that magic. We did not know exactly what we were going to do with the footage, but we wanted to make sure we had it. After we saw the footage, we got the idea to do a web series, breaking LudoBites down to the basics. What and who it takes to make LudoBites happen: The Food, Kitchen Staff, Front of House Staff, The Dining Experience. We want to answer the question ‘What is LudoBites?
TF: What was the process for filming and editing each video?
KL: We had a film crew join us at LudoBites 6.0 in Sherman Oaks in December 2010 for two days. They captured everything from prep to dinner service on closing night. We left the editing process to the professionals. We reviews and provided input on the edits, but since they simply captured real life at LudoBites that was what we wanted to see.
TF: How does the web series correspond to the upcoming Sundance show?
KL: The web series has nothing to do with the Sundance show. The only way they correspond is that they both show real life at LudoBites. The web series took place at the end of LudoBites 6.0. By then it was a well oiled machine. Ludo Bites America is about capturing the real life of LudoBites, but in a completely new city, new cuisine, and new restaurant location with a new staff each week.
TF: After making these 5 episodes would you consider more web content in the future?
KL: Absolutely. We have so much amazing content from around the country that will never fit into the one-hour episodes for Ludo Bites America. We hope to turn some of it into more web content.
TF: How does social media play a role in creating excitement and disseminating information for a restaurant that is constantly changing locations?
KL: Social media is the most important part of LudoBites marketing. It is so instant and reached are target market. It is immediate. Who could have ever expected to me about to open a full restaurant in a new city in lass than a week and have it be full of people before the days of social media.
TF: So far you have popped up in Mobile, AL, Raleigh NC, Santa Fe NM, and Denver CO. Where are you off to next? How grueling is life on the road?
KL: Life on the road is very grueling. We will have opened four restaurants in a month. We work no less that 12-14 hours a day and are currently in Denver. We are going to take a month off then head out to the final two cities. We don’t know where we are going yet, but are definitely hoping to experience Maine lobster, but at this point we have absolutely no idea.
TF: What have you learned about America being on the road?
KL: We have both been surprised by the amount of really special traditional cultures that still exist around America. You have to look a little harder than just going to the big cities. It has been a really great experience.
TF: Can you tell us where LudoBites 7.0 is going to be and can we have a reservation? (We had to ask.)
KL: Nice try. I can tell you that we are planning LudoBites 7.0 this summer in Los Angeles. We can’t wait to see all of our LA supporters who have made all of this possible.
It is clear Ludo’s passion inspires the LudoBites staff. Sydney Hunter III is now the chef at Bastide. Dan Moody opened Relate in Encinitas, Califoria bringing the first pop up restaurant to the San Diego area. We asked Moddy about his experience working at LudoBites:
Ludo is, as I said in the video, a genius. It can be hard to work with any genius because people at that level tend to have expectations that are all but unattainable. That said, if you can live up to expectations more often than not, there’s a lot to be learned from someone cooking at the level Ludo does, and he’s a phenomenal mentor.
I certainly had my failures at LudoBites, and there were tough moments, but overall it was one of the best experiences of my life, and that is not hyperbole. Ludo and Krissy are kind, big-hearted, caring employers, and they always did right by me, and, in my opinion, the rest of the staff. It was a pleasure to work for them. I have nothing but respect for Ludo.
The video series gives Ludo’s fans and those who have yet to experience his elaborate creations a window into the world of LudoBites. Follow Ludo and Krissy on Twitter to keep up with their adventures. If you’re lucky enough to get a reservation at any of their restaurants, take it, book a flight to wherever that restaurant may be, and get ready to taste something really special.