How does a top chef become a top chef? Certainly landing a gig on the Food Network will skyrocket you into the public eye, and earning the coveted title of “executive chef” at a popular city restaurant will get people talking. But launching a career in the culinary world starts well before then… in the kitchen, with food. We reached out to chef Ludo Lefebvre, who owns celebrated L.A. restaurant Trois Mec and newcomer Petit Trois, and has appeared on practically every cooking show (including Iron Chef America, Top Chef Masters, Hell’s Kitchen, The Taste, and his own series Ludo Bites America), to hear about the five dishes that propelled his career. Read on below and prepare to feel a pang of hunger!
THE DISH: Foie Gras Croque-Monsieur
WHERE HE CREATED IT: LudoBites, his cult hit pop-up restaurant
THE BASIC INGREDIENTS: Black squid ink bread, foie gras terrine, basque cheese, and cherry jam
WHY IT WAS IMPORTANT: “This was a new way to eat foie gras. People typically eat foie gras in a fancy froufrou settings. This was a sandwich, which made it more accessible and fun.”
THE DISH: Potato Pulp
WHERE HE CREATED IT: Trois Mec
THE BASIC INGREDIENTS: Potato pulp, Salers cheese, onions soubise, dried bonito, and brown butter
WHY IT WAS IMPORTANT: “This recipe takes a basic staple (potatoes) and adds great texture and flavor. It's such a simple dish with very little manipulation to the star ingredient. It was so simple—it really took people by surprise.”
THE DISH: Deconstructed Bloody Mary
WHERE HE CREATED IT: Now-closed West Hollywood restaurant Bastide, where he was head chef beginning in 2004
THE BASIC INGREDIENTS: Spicy tomato sorbet, vodka gelée, and celery stick foam, all served in a spoon as one bite
WHY IT WAS IMPORTANT: “You are tricking your senses with this—you are literally eating a cocktail, and it's delicious.”
THE DISH: Lobster Vadouvan, Citrus, and Udon Noodles
WHERE HE CREATED IT: Bastide
THE BASIC INGREDIENTS: Roasted lobster with vadouvan spices, udon noodles, carrots, and oranges
WHY IT WAS IMPORTANT: “This recipe brought the French vadouvan flavor to America. It's a flavor rooted in French Colonial times, and this dish was my celebration of that. As far as I know, this was really one of the first exposures to vadouvan in Los Angeles. It quickly became a trend ingredient.”
THE DISH: Buttermilk Provencal Fried Chicken
WHERE HE CREATED IT: LudoBird, his fried-chicken concession stand inside The Staples Center in Los Angeles, which opened in 2013
THE BASIC INGREDIENTS: Chicken, rosemary, thyme, garlic, lemon, black pepper, and buttermilk
WHY IT WAS IMPORTANT: "I was a French chef serving the most American dish possible at LudoBites. It was really unexpected for me to be making fried chicken, but I treated it the same way I treat any chicken when I cook it. The brine and the sauces are the key. Soon LudoBird grew into the inaugural chef-owned concession stand at The Staples Center. Who doesn't love fried chicken while watching a game or concert?"
What’s your signature dish? Tell us in the comments below.