Chef Ludo's Spanish Revival house feels like an oasis in the middle of the valley. On a sunny summer day recently, our team had the pleasure of being hosted by chef Ludo Lefebvre and his wife (and business partner), Krissy, for a conversation over a delicious and refreshing fall walnut pesto salad. Framed by both their stunning kitchen's elegant quartz back wall and arched passe-plat (or kitchen pass-through), the French-born master chef gave us a brief culinary lesson. He spoke to the importance of keeping it simple when hosting, owning the right cooking essentials, and being intentional with your choices when shopping for fresh ingredients at your local market. For example, when picking up ingredients at the farmers' market for this salad, he liked the pairing of the crispness of the endives with the tartness of the plums to complement the crunchier pesto made with roasted walnuts and breadcrumbs. After our lesson, we all moved outside to the couple's incredible outdoor space, which featured a kitchen and dining area overlooking their pool. We spoke more about Ludo's start, why he came to Los Angeles, and some entertaining tips. Read on for more.
You're one of the most influential chefs and restaurateurs in Los Angeles. Tell us about how you got your start.
I would love to say it was always my dream or my passion, but that's not the case. After my parents split up, I went through a rebellious period. By the age of 13, my Dad told me I had to make a choice about my future. I could choose to be a hairdresser, mechanic, or cook. I loved to eat, and my happiest memories were in the kitchen with my grandmother, so I chose "cook." I went through an apprentice system starting at the age of 14. It was the discipline I needed. I loved it.
We're so grateful you decided to move to Los Angeles and open some of our favorite restaurants in the city, but what made you first come to LA?
When I finally decided to come to America (and my mentor Marc Meneau told me I was ready), I had offers in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. In France, Los Angeles is portrayed as the ultimate "American" lifestyle. Baywatch was huge back then. The show was called Malibu Alert in France. So, Los Angeles, it was.
What were the main focus points you wanted to capture in your outdoor kitchen and dining space?
The space needed to be functional, but it was important that it wasn't just a barbeque pit. When we bought this house, we knew that we wanted this outdoor space to be magical. It needed to serve as a kitchen and dining space but also incorporate our beautiful pool, jacuzzi, and brick fire pit. The outdoor kitchen needed to tie everything together as a cohesive, functional, and enjoyable space.
How would you describe your outdoor design style?
Since the house is a Spanish-style 1970's villa, we wanted to stay true to that intention, but we needed to modernize it a bit. Not sure how to describe my "style," except that I want to create a happy and inviting environment.
How do you want people to feel when they come into your home and outdoor space?
For us, we want our guests to feel comfortable. We want them to feel at home. We hope we have created a space that is not overdone but has had a lot of thought into how it functions.
What is your favorite tip for entertaining?
Prepare as much as you can before people come over; otherwise, you end up working the entire time instead of enjoying your friends and family. And don't overcomplicate things. Remember to keep it simple.
Are there any outdoor dining and grilling tips you're willing to share, chef?
It is something so simple but makes a big impact. Always have a spray bottle of olive oil by the grill. Adding a little fat during the cooking process to vegetables, meat, or fish helps add flavor. When cooking meat, use it to create a large flame that helps to create the perfect sear.
What's next for you professionally?
I am really excited to be opening my first restaurant outside of Los Angeles in January 2022. Chez Maggy will be opening at the new Thomspon Hotel in Denver. Krissy is from Denver so we have always spent a lot of time there visiting her family. It will be nice to have a restaurant in our second home town. Chez Maggy is named for my mother-in-law who was killed by a drunk driver in Golden, CO in February 2019.