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Ludobites, Behind the Scenes

Posted by Austios on December 25, 2009

As a chef, I have been fortunate enough to be able to do something I am genuinely and whole-heartedly passionate about. While I am still relatively young in my career and have not worked at any widely known or highly coveted restaurants, that still has not stopped me from daydreaming about certain chefs I would love and hope to work for one day. Some of them include Michael Voltaggio, Hubert Keller, Rick Bayless, Eric Ripert, Rick Tramonto and Mario Batali. And I mean work FOR them, meaning I would work under them and not in one of their restaurants but never see the guy. I mean, that is just me. I want the guy I am representing by working and cooking in his restaurant to at least know who I am and know that I exist.

However, someone else who is on that list is Los Angeles area chef Ludovic ”Ludo” Lefbvre. Named one of the top 50 chefs in the world by Relais & Chateau, Ludo is a James Beard Rising Star Chef nominee and author of “Crave: A Feast of the Five Senses”, also having been featured on widely syndicated television shows such as Top Chef Masters and Iron Chef America (before his haircut). He also has received much acclaim from the public, bloggers, and critics alike, one of the most notable being Los Angeles area favorite, Jonathan Gold.

Going back to why Ludo is a chef that I want to work for, let me give you a little background. This past summer, I had the chance to eat at Ludobites 2.0, in which he had set up shop at Breadbar on 3rd street, near Cedars Sinai Medical Center and the cluster of some of LA’s better restaurants along La Cienega Blvd. That was around the time that they were showing Top Chef Masters, in which, as I had mentioned previously, Ludo was one of the 24 featured chefs.

The point I am trying to make is I want you to think of this question: How often do you think up and coming chefs get the chance to be able to work directly under or with a chef they admire and respect? Simply put, a chef they WANT to work for? I would not be surprised if that number was less than 5 out of 100. Unless someone is really lucky, he or she will rarely go into a restaurant BEFORE having the dream or wish of working for the chef. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that the person will never come to trust or respect the chef, because over time he or she will, but it’s simply about being able to say, “I want to work for him/her”.

It’s pretty obvious by now where I am going with this. As most of you know, I spent a few days in the kitchen at Royal/T for Chef Ludo’s 3rd installment of Ludobites. Having already been a part of Ludobites 3.0 as a diner, I was especially excited to be a part of the fruition and put out the dishes that I so thoroughly enjoyed.

My first day was December 13. Ludo’s wife, Krissy (and which I many times have argued is his better half), asked me to come in at 2 PM. I had already committed to a previous engagement a week prior to be in the San Diego area from the 18th-21st, so we had negotiated for me to go in from the December 13th-17th and then return on the 22nd for their last day of this run. The first day on the job is always the most nerve-wracking. Especially in a restaurant kitchen, you’re having to remember everybody’s name, familiarize yourself with the kitchen and where everything is, and unintentionally going at a slower than normal pace because you do not know how the chef wants certain things and you always have to stop to ask.

For those of you who have never been to Royal/T, their kitchen is quite small. The line is ideal for maybe 3 cooks, 1 more for the garde manger station, then 1 dish washer and 1 expediter. There is relatively limited shelf space, no walk in refrigerator or freezer, so moving about was quite challenging. Of course, Royal/T in their normal business does not do a lot of food, so a kitchen this size is perfect. They usually have 2 cooks and another prep cook during their lunch service. However, for Ludobites, there was at least 2 of us (Ludo would join us for the rush) on the line, 2 on garde manger, 1 person floating, 2 dishwashers, and the expediter. Yeah, it was a tight squeeze. Also, the way the kitchen was laid out, we were constantly crossing each other on the line, making it even more difficult to have things run perfectly smooth back there.

But we made it work. And I will tell you, it was exhilarating! I will admit and say that I have not been on a line in probably 3 1/2 years, so I will admit I was quite nervous to be working an actual dinner service. But I got through it with minimal problems. I just had so much fun. Yes, I burned myself was I was frying some plaintains and the scars will be pretty bad, but hey, my old scars were starting to fade and I needed new ones.

The rest of the week was just as awesome. Yes, I was stressed out and running around like a chicken with its head cut off, but that’s mainly because I was trying to do what I could to prepare for my gig in San Diego and finish as much Christmas shopping as I could in the mornings, since I needed to leave the house by 1. But like I always say, “it’s better being busy than not”, right?

I will have to say that what was quite interesting were all the people who had come in during my time there. I mean, it seemed that, as Jo from @mylastbite so affectionately put it, I had as many “froupies”, which is her own mashing of the words “foodie” and “groupie”, as Chef Ludo did. No, that’s not true, but there literally were at least 4 or 5 people each day that I had either met via Yelp or knew through Twitter, etc, that had come into eat. Probably the best moment in that regard was when Ludo came into the kitchen one night towards the end of service saying, “Austin, Jazz (the owner of Jitlada) wants to meet you”. I will have to say I was a little shocked at that. SOMEONE wanted to meet ME? Jazz, who was dining with Jo that night, is such a sweetheart and a really nice woman. All I have to say is, “Thai Chili”.

I am a firm believer of his concept and of his food, and now that I have had the chance to work beside him, I know that he is genuinely a great person both in and out of the kitchen. He really is a charmer with the ladies, but as Krissy has said, “it wears off quickly”.

Until next time, Chef.

P.S. – Don’t worry, I didn’t spit in anybody’s food

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5 Responses to “Ludobites, Behind the Scenes”

  1. mylastbite said

    So nice meeting you finally!
    From just one of your many FROUPIES! : )

  2. Caroline said

    Hopefully one day we’ll meet! Good job, btw.

  3. kevinEats said

    How was it working with Fred Savage?

  4. […] help but involuntarily jump up and down for joy. Call me biased, but ever since working for him at Ludobites 3.0, but I have been following as closely as I can and literally within 5 minutes of the reservation […]

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