There’s something about Kiernan Shipka. Her sophisticated persona, high intelligence, and sharp wit belie her youth. In fact, it’s hard to believe the Mad Men actress is only 16. Shipka has an old soul and impeccable taste in everything from fashion to food. So you can imagine her delight when we asked the talented teen to join one of L.A.’s top French chefs, Ludo Lefebvre, for a cooking lesson in his new French-Mexican café, Trois Familia.
Turns out Shipka is a big fan of Ludo’s. She’s a regular at his cutting-edge fine-dining experience, Trois Mec, and lives close to his popular Parisian restaurant Petit Trois. Despite her creative savvy on set, Shipka told MyDomaine that cooking isn’t something she’s really given much practice. But with a little help from Chef Ludo’s culinary insights, the talented ingénue now has a promising career in the world’s top kitchens (which we doubt she’ll ever take up, given her astronomic rise in showbiz), we even have the proof on film. Read on to hear how the two first met, what makes a French burrito French, and the strangest ingredient pairings they both love right now.
MYDOMAINE: Tell us the story of how you two met.
KIERNAN SHIPKA: Right now! Right here, right now.
CHEF LUDO: I met you a few years ago. You don’t remember?
KS: No? What happened? I would have remembered because I’m a big fan.
CL: No, I met you first on TV of course. When I was watching Mad Men.
KS: Oh, of course. We didn’t literally meet.
CL: But no, what I mean is that we knew each other, but it was more like on Instagram and social media, you know? Then she would always come to my restaurant, and I’m never there. [Laughs]
MD: What makes your Trois Familia bean burrito so different from other bean burritos?
CL: First of all, it’s French, so we use a lot of butter, but brown butter.
KS: Yes, a lot of butter. So much! [Laughs]
MD: What your favorite part about the whole process of cooking together?
CL: Make sure we get along with each other first, and make sure she understands me when I talk.
KS: This is true. [Laughs] I don’t know how to make a crêpe; I don’t know how to make anything. So this is learning from the best.
CL: Maybe I will show you how to do an omelet real quick.
KS: I mean, you make the best omelet. I would love to learn. I just don’t cook a lot.
KS: Because you have great restaurants, so I don’t need to. I live close to Petit Trois, so there’s absolutely no reason.
MD: Talk us through the dishes that you cooked together today and why you chose them.
CL: I wanted to show her how to make our bean burrito because it’s more like a French and Mexican fusion. I also wanted to show her how to make a crêpe, but if you ever want me to show you something else, let me know.
KS: No, I’m so happy. The bean burrito is my favorite thing on the menu. It’s so, so good.
MD: What inspires you to cook?
CL: I think it’s mostly from life and from people I meet and through the restaurant, but it’s also ingredients. Good ingredients are key to great cooking, and inspiration, you know. When I get some beautiful tomatoes, I’m very excited. I think, What am I going to do with that? But also the people and the culture inspire my cooking.
Trois Familia’s building was previously home to a very famous restaurant called Alegria, and the owner, Nadine, was here for a long time. When she decided to sell her place to us, I could see she had a broken heart because she had it for a long time. I felt bad, you know, so that’s why I decided to keep it a little bit Mexican just to honor her. We do that in France too. We keep the Mexican in homage to Nadine.
MD: What is your favorite dish at Trois Familia?
KS: Oh man, there are so many. I think the potato tacos rank up there with me. They’re so special.
CL: Yes, a lot of people love the potato taco.
MD: Do you have a personal favorite that you love to cook?
CL: No. Well, it changes all the time. I don’t know what it’s like with acting, but sometimes I love to cook a burrito, and next month it’s something else. I think maybe with acting it’s the same: Sometimes you love TV, and then it’s something else. I love to cook everything. Sometimes I will have months where I really want to cook vegetables; sometimes I want to cook more meat. You know, it changes.
MD: What are the strangest ingredient pairings that you love right now?
CL: Using seaweed for dessert.
KS: What’s on the rice pudding Trois Mec? Is that seaweed?
CL: Yes, it’s seaweed. Ah, she knows!
KS: Yeah I do know. Very good.
CL: We use wakame seaweed. It’s a little bit saltier, so that’s why it goes very well with dessert. You know, that sweet and salty pairing. It’s all about finding something that’s different than salt but is still salty, especially with dessert. Have you ever tried my panna cotta caviar?
KS: No, I’ve never had it.
CL: It’s like vanilla and caramel, but we don’t put salt; we put caviar because caviar is salty.
MD: French and Mexican—not two cuisines that you often find together. What inspired the fusion?
CL: I think it’s a very, very comfortable food, and people know that the food isn’t that complicated. Of course it’s not really classic Mexican. I’m not Mexican, so I don’t really know how to do the perfect mole, but it’s more about me using French techniques and adding some Mexican flavor. We use a lot of avocado and jalapeño, but it’s more playful. There’s nothing really fancy. That’s why I think people like it. I mean, look at the potato taco. It’s very simple: potato, garlic, butter, cheese, taco, and that’s it.
KS: And those carrots though. The carrots are so good.
CL: Oh yes, and the sauce. The sauce! In France, we do a lot of shredded carrot salads with a lot of olive oil, vinegar, spice, and herbs.
MD: How do you test new dish ideas to see if they’ll work?
CL: Sometimes we try it on the staff and sometimes it’s more about instinct. Sometimes it’s good; sometimes people like it, and sometimes they don’t. When you cook with instinct, sometimes it’s like that. You take risks. I know how to cook safe food; I know how to do that. Trois Mec is all about trying to surprise people with unusual flavors and combinations. So most of the time I test with the staff.
I made a lot of mistakes as a young chef because I didn’t taste a lot of my food. It sounds beautiful on paper, but now I have an open mind. I make sure I test all of my food. Before, when I was younger, I was cooking with instinct, and I would just put the food on the menu.
MD: What is one skill that you want to take away from this experience?
KS: The skill of cooking because it’s not one I currently possess. Genuinely, I am not great in the kitchen because I haven’t really given it much practice, so I’m pretty excited.