Chef Ludo Lefebvre is back and cooking tonight with his beloved pop-up restaurant LudoBites at Royal-T. Since one never knows what could be up Ludo's inked up sleeves, we took a few minutes to ask the chef what to expect this go-around. Enjoy our interview as Lefebvre tempts us with a revamped bite from Bastide, reveals his perfectionist streak, celebrates his "restaurant full of teachers," and discussses future plans once LudoBites finishes its current run.
Is there anything you're particularly excited to show people at the next LudoBites?
I am bringing back one of my favorite dishes and a big winner with the guests from my days at Bastide: Tuna sashimi with sushi rice ice cream. But I have changed up a couple of the flavors. The clientele was limited at Bastide, and there are so many LudoBites customers that have never tried this. I am excited to see the very classy, plate-licking tradition carry over from Bastide to LudoBites at Royal/T.
Are there any favorites you're bringing back from the first LudoBites?
There will be no repeat dishes. I can't help myself. Once I perfect a dish, I move on. People always want to know what is "new" on the menu, so I can proudly say: everything. Royal/T is a much different space than BreadBar and I try to build a menu that reflects the environment. Of course I will have foie gras, but it is a new preparation that I hope will get everyone as excited as the croque monsieur. There will also be a pork belly dish, but much different than the one served at BreadBar.
Were there any dishes you felt did not work as you planned at LudoBites?
If a dish does not work I just take it off the menu. Sometimes I cancel a customer's order if I don't like the dish when it is going to be sent out for the first time. I would rather not serve a dish than send something that I am not happy with.
We know pop-ups have brought you closer to other artists and avid diners in L.A. What have some of your guests been able to teach you?
The pop-up concept has allowed me to interact one-on-one with my guests and has opened the doors to an entirely new clientele that maybe could not have afforded L'Orangerie or Bastide, or those that simply are not fans of "fine dining" restaurants. I have also gotten to know some of my customers from L'Orangerie and Bastide better. I have the freedom to interact with everyone. I have invited guests into the kitchen and in return they have invited me into their homes and to their favorite restaurants. I have learned to make mole, kimchi, and dumplings—I still need some work on this one. I have now dined in Little Saigon, Chinatown, Thai Town, Monterey Park, and the authentic Mexican restaurants in East L.A. I have also had English lessons from one guest. The LudoBites experience has brought me a restaurant full of teachers. I love it. I love to learn everyday.
What about the pop-up model works best for you?
Freedom. I am not ready to be confined by permanent walls. The pop-up model allows me to be mobile and try my cuisine in different parts of L.A. and hopefully soon outside of L.A. The pop-up model also allows me to keep my prices reasonable. If I had a huge rent and overhead to pay, I would have no choice but to charge more for my food. There are so many restaurants that go out of business or struggle because they can't charge enough to pay the high overhead. It is sad, but a reality of our times. I really hope to be able to build a business model long term that truly proves you do not need a trust fund to eat great food or to own a restaurant for that matter.
So what comes after LudoBites at Royal-T?
Who knows? I hope more LudoBites.