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Le Grand Fooding 2013 Unites the Best of Paris and L.A.

Le Grand Fooding 2013 Unites the Best of Paris and L.A.



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2 of the world’s gastronomic capitals combine forces for a vibrant and unorthodox urban picnic

Paris and LA unite to celebrate a mutual appreciation.

After four years in New York, the annual Le Grand Fooding event will move to Los Angeles on April 26 and 27. The urban picnic, which will feature collaborations between some of the best and brightest chefs of both Paris and LA, will set up in front of The Geffen Contemporary at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in downtown Los Angeles. The 650-attendee-per-night event will also feature the top DJs and graphic designers (including street artist Shepard Fairey) from both cities.

Participating Parisian chefs include Jean-François Piège (Restaurant Jean-François Piège), Inaki Aizpitarte (Le Chateaubriand), Grégory Marchand (Frenchie), and Sven Cartier (Saturne). Chefs Nancy Silverton (Mozza), Ludo Lefebvre (Trois Mec), Roy Choi (Kogi BBQ), Josef Centeno (Bäco Mercat), Jordan Kahn (Red Medicine), and Carolynn Spence (Château Marmont) will represent Los Angeles.

According to event representative Anna Polonsky from Le Fooding, some of the most anticipated collaborations include a "drinkable pizza" by Piège and Spence that’s meant to reinterpret "the classic American street-food dish [by] creatively spicing it up with delightful cheeses from France." The event is also honored to announce Nancy Silverton’s involvement, as it symbolizes a previous culinary generation’s support for the younger generation’s interesting innovations.

For New Yorkers who might lament this year’s change in location, Polonsky assures that a second 2013 event in New York City is on the books for September.

Tickets are available on the event’s website starting April 2, but a presale is available until then for MasterCard holders. Complimentary S. Pellegrino water will be available during the picnic and twenty percent of the ticket proceeds will go to the LA Food Bank and MOCA.


6 Spring Food And Drink Events In Los Angeles

We’ve written extensively about our love for the restaurant scene in Los Angeles, with lines and lines about the great ethnic enclaves, late night dining and an emerging downtown scene that doesn’t seem to be letting up. Writing this from our Midtown Manhattan office, with our awesome weather and quirky neighbors, it sort of makes us want to move to Los Angeles, like, last January. We’re also quite jealous about these upcoming food events, which you should totally check out and maybe cash in some airline miles to attend.

March 24
DFC Downtown Brunch Up
Arts District café Daily Dose will host slightly elusive film editor and fried chicken savant Dante Gonzales (read our interview) for a badass brunch. On the menu: Organic scrambled eggs with heirloom fingerling potatoes and Dante’s Sock-It-To-Me fried chicken. “I love our shared eco-fresh values of sustainability and honest foods,” says Gonzales of the collaboration. Tickets are $15/person. Info: dailydoseinc.com.

March 25
Animal x Catbird Seat
Josh Habiger and Erik Anderson, the duo behind Nashville’s acclaimed tasting room The Catbird Seat, will be setting up at Animal for a night that we are sure will involve shots of Fernet Branca. Also, lots of courses. Eight will run you $135 per person. But we think there will be more, more, more! Reservations can be made by calling Animal after 2 p.m. Pacific time. animalrestaurant.com

March 26-27
Food & Wine Best New Chefs Dinners at Paichẽ
Our man from Food GPS Josh Lurie tipped us to a pair of events he is co-hosting with F&W at soon-to open Peruvian izakaya Paichẽ. It’s the third restaurant from the team behind Picca and Mo-Chica (chef Ricardo Zarate and business partner Stephane Bombet). Zarate’s invited a few Best New Chefs to cook with him for two blowout dinners. Portland chef Naomi Pomeroy on the first night and Jamie Bissonnette / Viet Pham on the second. You can check out the menu here.


Born in Nantes, Gilles Epié started working at the age of 14 and trained with Alain Senderens and Alain Ducasse at Lucas-Carton in Paris. [9] After he traveled the world and studied global cuisine he returned to Paris. He received his first Michelin Star in 1980 at Le Pavillon des Princes, the youngest chef to receive the award at age 22. [10]

He worked as a chef at several notable French restaurants, including La Vieille Fontaine near Paris where he received a Michelin Star in 1983, his restaurant Le Miravile, where he was honored with a Michelin Star in 1986, and La Petite Cour in Saint-Germain-des-Pres, Paris. [11] In 1995 he left France to explore U.S. cuisine, speaking very little English. He worked as the Head Chef of the iconic French restaurant L’Orangerie, Los Angeles where he introduced a Provençal-inspired style of cooking. Within a year he was voted Best Chef In America of 1996 by Food & Wine Magazine. [10] [11] [12] He took the restaurant from empty tables to being booked months in advance, and brought the establishment from a three-star to a five-star restaurant within six months. [12]

Next, he bought and operated the Beverly Hills restaurant Chez Gilles on Beverly Drive along with partner Jean Denoyer. [13]

Having mastered the culinary fusion of French/ California dishes, his clients have included actors, supermodels and politicians across the world. [12] He has prepared dinners for U.S. presidents George Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, and Donald Trump. He has also cooked for French Presidents François Mitterrand, Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy, Francois Holland and Emmanuel Macron, as well as the King of Sweden, Sheikh of Qatar, Frank Sinatra, Kirk Douglas, Bruce Springsteen, Slash, Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, Chris Tucker, Mick Jagger, Sharon Stone, Michel Polnareff, Gregory Peck, Richard Gere, Pierce Brosnan, Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Diana, Joan Severance, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Michael Jordan and many more. [14] After 10 years in the United States, Epié decided to return to Paris after his dream restaurant location opened up near the Champs-Elysées. He opened Citrus Etoile restaurant in 2005 along with his wife, former model/actress, Elizabeth Nottoli. He named the restaurant in honor of his friend Chef Michel Richard and his Los Angeles restaurant, Citrus. To celebrate its launch, the French news magazine Paris Match featured Gilles and his wife Elizabeth in a glossy spread, having a black-tie picnic on the wing of an American Airlines Boeing jet. [15] Citrus Etoile was selected as a member of the prestigious Châteaux & Hotels Collection - Tables remarquables. [16] The New York Times listed Citrus Etoile as a "must visit" new restaurant in Paris in 2006, stating "Chef Epie is a true culinary contortionist." In 2006, Condé Nast Traveller named Citrus Etoile as one of the Top 100 Hot Restaurants in the world. Citrus Etoile was also featured in Alain Ducasse's book, J’Aime Paris. [17] [18] After 13 successful years, Chef Epié sold Citrus Etoile and decided to return to America, a country he has always loved. [19] [20]

Chef Epié was the French food correspondent for the BBC from 2010–2016. In February 2012, he traveled with 4 other Michelin star chefs on the MSC Splendida's Celebrity Chef cruises. [21] In 2012, he was invited to participate in the 25th anniversary celebration of Alain Ducasse's Louis XV restaurant held in Monte Carlo. [22] Chef Epié was also featured with a small group of top chefs in the cookbook "La Truffe" from the Maison de la Truffe restaurant to celebrate its 80th anniversary with 80 truffle recipes in 2012. [23]

In April 2013, Gilles Epié opened Frenchy's, a Parisian style brasserie in the Charles de Gaulle Airport's International Terminal 2. [24] [25]

In 2014, Chef Epié participated as a Guest Chef at a charity event for Michelle Obama in Puerto Rico.

In March 2015, Chef Epié was invited as a Guest Chef in New York for an event hosted by the Chefs Club - Food & Wine Magazine.

In 2015, he was the Guest Chef at La Clef des Champs restaurant in Mauritius for a French Gastronomic Week event. [26]

In November 2016, Chef Epié teamed up with Chef Juan Jose Cuevas for the Guest Chef Dinner Series at the Vanderbilt Hotel, a culinary event that took place in Puerto Rico. They presented a collaborative seven-course gastronomic menu. [27] [28] [29] In 2016, Chef Epié was featured at the James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour Dinner in Santa Barbara [30] and also received FestForum's Lifetime Achievement award. [31]

In 2017, along with other celebrity chefs, Epié cooked at the second edition of the Cuisine of the Sun culinary festival, at Villa La Estancia Beach Resort & Spa in Mexico. [32] He also prepared a gastronomic dinner at the IBEROSTAR Grand Paraíso Hotel in Cancun. [33]

After deciding to return to the U.S., he sold Citrus Etoile in 2017. Gilles Epié became the Corporate Executive Chef at Juvia, Miami Beach in 2018. He participated in the James Beard Foundation's "Beach Chic" charity event in New York City in 2018. [34] [20] [19] [35] [36] [37]

In Feb. 2019, Epié was invited as a Guest Chef at The Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF®). [38]

In 2019, he became the Culinary Director/ Executive Chef of the exclusive Montage Beverly Hills Hotel, the restaurant was renamed Gilles @ Montage Hotel.

Epié creates modern French dishes with American and international accents. California influenced Epié's style of cooking and he is praised by weight-conscious food lovers. He also added Asian and Peruvian dishes to his culinary palette. He is known for creating dishes with rich bold tastes. His inventive, delicious and healthy cuisine is constantly evolving. [39]

He explains that the secret to a great dish is always using the finest locally sourced seasonal products. [12]

On television, Gilles Epié and his wife Elizabeth starred in two seasons of his reality documentary show in France for Canal+/Cuisine+, Dans La Vraie Vie D’un Grand Chef (The Real Life of a Top Chef) that featured his restaurant Citrus Etoile. [40] [41] [42]

He also starred in 20 episodes (2 seasons) of “Un Frenchy en cuisine” (A Frenchy in the Kitchen) which aired on Cuisine+ in 2015. [14] [43]

Gilles Epié has made numerous television appearances, including: NBC News Miami (2018), [44] KTLA Channel 5 - California Cooking with Jessica Holmes (2019), [45] KTLA Channel 5 (2019). [46]


Does the Classic Paris Meal Still Exist?

It happened in MontMartre.
 One quiet afternoon, on a cobblestone street where Toulouse-Lautrec, Utrillo, and Picasso once trod, an oil painting caught our eye in the window of Galerie Roussard, one of the oldest, most famous art galleries on the Butte. The dream-like restaurant scene featured indistinct black-suited waiters in long, white aprons passing among tables draped in red cloths, a bottle of wine on one, a carafe of water on another. It evoked a long-vanished era, a moment frozen in time.

“Impressive, isn’t it?” The question startled us. We looked up to see the bearded but youthful face of the gallery owner, Julien Roussard, who then invited us inside. Up close, the painting came alive, waiters scurrying from table to table bearing steaming bowls of pot-au-feu and platters of roast chicken. A napkin tucked under his chin, a diner tore apart what looked like a lobster. At another table, a man and woman held hands, their food ignored on the table before them.

“Bouillon Chartier,” noted Roussard, “is still a working restaurant,” first opening in 1896 and now classified a monument historique. “Nothing has changed there in the last hundred years, and nothing is likely to change in the next hundred.”

The painting by Serbian artist Marko Stupar took us back to those exhilarating days in the fall of 1978 when we first arrived in Paris and Don took a post as a foreign correspondent for CBS News. Nothing then disappointed us: The Eiffel Tower, houseboats and barges on the River Seine, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and the majestic Champs-Élysées were just as we had imagined. But it was the restaurants that truly dazzled us. We’d heard, of course, so much about the glories of French cuisine, but nothing had prepared us for the experience. We plunged into the dining scene with unending appetites, worshipping at such temples of haute cuisine as La Tour d’Argent, Ledoyen, and Taillevent, but not forgetting either to pay tribute to the smaller, more modest cafés and restaurants. We were hooked.

In France, eating has traditionally been something more than satisfying hunger pangs. “A profound love of great food and wine has always permeated French society and the country’s identity,” says Alexander Lobrano, author of Hungry for Paris: The Ultimate Guide to the City’s 109 Best Restaurants, one of the most thoughtful guide-books currently available. “The French phrase les arts de vivre (the arts of living) includes good cooking and conveys the deep seriousness with which the French shop, cook, and consume food. They talk and think about it constantly.” Stupar’s painting articulated les arts de vivre perfectly. The motion and energy of a restaurant, the color, taste, and texture of the food, and the care with which it was prepared. The celebration and sensuousness of the act of eating.

But the painting also reminded us how Paris restaurants have changed over the years since our first visit. And in many cases for the worse. Certainly we had become more selective if not more finicky with age: Now authors of a couple of books on wine and veterans of 35 years living in the city, we were no longer ingénues. Eating in Paris had become for us an expensive, often disappointing trial. We had grown tired of having to call weeks or months in advance for reservations. Prices had skyrocketed. The proprietors of small, cozy places, whom we’d come to know as good friends, had retired or passed away. In time, we drifted away too.

But that painting of Bouillon Chartier had tantalized us with thoughts of lost pleasures. When a friend compared our habit of not eating out in Paris to visiting the Louvre and not seeing the “Mona Lisa,” we knew that something had to change.

The dining room of Bouillon Chartier in 2013 (Fred Dufour/Getty Images)

But where to start? Much like a first-time visitor, we felt lost and confused. We dusted off our trusty red Michelin, albeit out of date, but how could it compete now with the stack of much newer guidebooks, slew of blogs, and dozens of Internet crowd-sourced sites? We decided to start with a few places we remembered from the old days.

First stop, Val d’Isère. As the first place we ate when we arrived in Paris, it was our sentimental favorite. Just off the Champs-Élysées, near the Arc de Triomphe, the charming, old-fashioned brasserie featured ancient wooden skis on the walls along with photographs of ski champions of yesteryear. The same waiters always served and took great care of us. Aside from the plat du jour, the menu never changed. Val d’Isère felt eternal.

To our dismay, we found that it wasn’t: Val d’Isère had been transformed into an African-themed bar called the Impala Lounge. We couldn’t bear to go inside.

We then approached Jamin, which we remembered as a simple, yet elegant, small restaurant—not far from the apartment we first lived in near Place du Trocadéro—that the equine-loving owner had decorated with engravings of famous horses. Since our first visit in 1978, ownership had changed, with the restaurant at one point becoming the home of celebrated chef Joël Robuchon, who had earned his third Michelin star there.

Much to our relief, Jamin had reverted to its more humble roots as a solid neighborhood restaurant, serving delicious food in a relaxed, warm, and friendly atmosphere. Don’s delicately grilled coquilles Saint-Jacques (scallops) were served on a bed of crème de poireaux (leeks), while Petie’s cannelloni aux légumes (vegetable cannelloni) was surprisingly rich and bursting with flavor.

Now, feeling more confident, we returned to La Tour d’Argent, where we had enjoyed one of the most spectacular meals of our lives. Seated at a table overlooking the Seine and the Cathedral of Notre Dame, we had celebrated our 25th anniversary, gorging ourselves on foie gras, scrambled eggs with truffles, and roast duckling, all washed down with glasses of champagne and a sublime bottle of Burgundy.

On the way to our table, we passed photographs of patrons that included kings, queens, and movie stars. Nothing seemed to have changed.

But the magic had faded. The restaurant had shed two of its coveted three Michelin stars and taken harsh criticism in the press. Lobrano believes many high-end restaurants have lost their way and become distant and patronizing. “The rites and rules of traditional three-star dining weren’t making people happy anymore,” he told us. “Prices had become astronomical, and everything was too formal.”

A chef who once worked at La Tour d’Argent agreed. “Before the current problems, gastronomic restaurants were lively places, jovial places for enjoying yourself. But then we created museums—that’s what went wrong—museums with heavy atmosphere. People want warmth. We have to make everything lighter, including the bill.”

Yet despite these dire observations, there’s never been a better or more exciting time to eat in Paris. “In the last ten years, there’s been a pretty spectacular renewal of the Paris landscape,” says Lobrano, who has eaten in more Paris restaurants than practically anyone else. “A new generation of really talented young chefs has created a new type of bistro. That’s where the best eating is in Paris today.”

Parisians call it bistronomie, from the mashing together of bistro and gastronomie. Whereas bistros traditionally featured limited menus and a casual dining environment, bistronomie boasts a range of rich, inventive dishes, often reflective of globalizing forces. New chefs are coming from Spain, Scandinavia, Japan, Australia, and the United States. Antoine Westermann, who earned three stars at a restaurant in Alsace and now runs Mon Vieil Ami, summed up the bistro world when he told us, “My goal is not to impress but to bring out emotion, like a nice soup, a really nice soup, so nice that you can’t remember when you last had the same.”

Four years ago the American couple Braden Perkins and Laura Adrian opened Verjus, a restaurant and wine bar near the Palais-Royal in the heart of Paris. “It’s been exciting to discover French products for the first time and to be cooking with them,” Perkins says. “It’s thrilling to be in the kitchen.”

But it didn’t start out that way. “Center of Paris Under Attack by Americans!” screamed one French headline. Today it’s much different. Most of the French press now raves about their cooking, and that of other foreign chefs as well.

“There’s a real brotherhood among the guy and gal chefs in Paris,” says Wendy Lyn, creator of The Paris Kitchen, a website that serves as the true insider’s guide to the culinary scene. “They are very open and welcoming.”

Now even the French chefs, many of whom had left the country after becoming disillusioned with the stultifying traditions, are returning, armed with new ideas and more experience. “French cooks are excited to be cooking in their own country again,” Perkins said. “They are thrilled to be doing something different.”


What is a Paris bistro

We have described the etymology of the term bistro above, but what is the actual difference between a bistro and a restaurant?

They aren’t necessarily different things. A bistro, rather, is a type of restaurant. It’s more of a laid back, casual French restaurant that served usually inexpensive food that is not prepared too elaborately. The food usually has a more rustic presentation where the chefs will interpret French classics in a new way.

This isn’t to say that bistros are of lesser quality, in fact they can also be gastronomic and Michelin worthy. Another almost constant addition to any Paris bistro is an extensive wine list either from a specific region in France or a blend of amazing grape varietals.

Another type of French restaurant you may find yourself in is a brasserie. This differentiates itself from a bistro in that it has Alsatian, not Russian, roots and is literally translated from French as “brewery”. They therefore have their history in beer making and there is usually beer on tap.

So while bistros are smaller, quainter and flowing with wine, brasseries are more boisterous, larger open and apart from the beer, have oysters, soup, and choucroute.


Contents

Lefebvre was born in Auxerre, Burgundy and grew up in a small village called Charbuy. In his early teens he expressed his desire to be a chef. His father took him to a local restaurant named Maxime and asked them to give Lefebvre some menial job in order to discourage him, but he loved it. [6] His love for food began in his childhood, spending many of his days in his grandmother's kitchen.

His formal culinary training began at age 14 at the restaurant L’Esperance in Vézelay under chef Marc Meneau, where he worked for three years. He then went on to work with Pierre Gagnaire at his eponymous restaurant in Saint-Étienne (now closed), then with Alain Passard at L'Arpège, where he trained in what he describes as "the school of fire," learning to control and play with heat. [6] Ludo concluded his formal French training with Guy Martin at Le Grand Vefour, from whom he states that he learned the business side of the food service industry. [6] [7]

Restaurants Edit

In 1996, Lefebvre moved to Los Angeles where he began work at L'Orangerie at the invitation of Gilles Epie, who was the head chef at the time. [8] About a year later, at the age of 25, he was promoted to executive chef and went on to see the restaurant become one of the top-rated in California, receiving the Mobil Guide five-star award.

In 2004, he moved to the restaurant Bastide on Melrose Place, which was also awarded the prestigious Mobil Guide five-star award under his direction. The dishes he created there included panini au foie gras with an apricot based accompaniment, poularde marinated in Pepsi-Cola with popcorn, and panna cotta topped with caviar in a salted-butter caramel sauce. After the restaurant closed for renovations, he decided not to return. On a whim, Ludo asked his friend who owned Breadbar, Ali Chalabi, if he could take over the bakery at night for 3 months when it was otherwise closed. There he created a special event dining experience which ultimately became known as LudoBites and was deemed by LA Weekly ' s Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, Jonathan Gold, as "a transforming moment in the Los Angeles restaurant scene." [9]

He created the opening menu for the restaurant Lavo [10] at the Palazzo in Las Vegas, and returned to Los Angeles in 2009. In May of that year, Ludo revived his special event dining concept LudoBites at Breadbar for another 3 months. After an extraordinary second run, it was clear that LudoBites was here to stay, and the "pop-up restaurant" concept was born. He went on to do nine total LudoBites pop-ups in Los Angeles, and one in Hawaii, crashing OpenTable twice and booking 6 weeks of reservations in 47 seconds. [11]

Bon Appetit called Ludo "the king of pop-ups." Food writer Richard Guzman wrote of his experience at this venue: "I was sad. The meal was over. In a way, eating at Ludobites is like hooking up with someone way out of your league while on vacation with none of your friends around to witness it and no chance of replicating the experience." [12] The restaurant achieved national acclaim when New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton summarized his experience in an article on August 3, 2010: "The first night eating all this was an amazement. The second was about ten times better – each dish perfectly executed, with every flavor in place, every temperature correct, every plate a fully realized piece of art. It was only the fifth night the restaurant had been open." [13]

In September 2010, Ludo brought fried chicken to the streets of Los Angeles by opening his food truck, known on the streets as "LudoTruck". In October 2013, Ludo took his fried chicken concept to the next level opening his first brick and mortar location, LudoBird, inside the STAPLES Center. [14] In March 2016, the second location of LudoBird opened at City Walk, Universal Studios Hollywood.

Ludo is now being credited with carrying the flag for Los Angeles modern fine dining, opening Trois Mec in April 2013 in partnership with friends Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo. [15] Trois Mec has earned 4 stars from both Los Angeles Magazine and LA Weekly, [16] was named Best New Restaurant by both publications, was named to Esquire Magazine's Best New Restaurant List for 2013, [17] included in GOOP – List of Best Tasting Menus in the World under $100 [18] and made Zagat's list of Top 10 Hottest Restaurants in the World for 2013. [19] Food & Wine Magazine awarded Trois Mec with the #1 Best Restaurant Dish of 2013 [20] and GQ placed Trois Mec #2 on its list of Best New Restaurants in the country for 2014. [21] LA Weekly has named it the #1 Best Restaurant in Los Angeles for both 2014 and 2015. Trois Mec has also been listed as #34 on the Top 100 U.S. Restaurant List for 2015 on the popular blog Opinionated About Dining. [22]

In July 2014, Ludo opened his second restaurant, Petit Trois, his "bar-a-la-carte" concept. Eater LA called it "the most hotly anticipated restaurant opening in 2014." [23] Petit Trois is located next door to its sister restaurant, Trois Mec. It was awarded four stars by LA Weekly food critic Besha Rodell, who said, "It is simultaneously one of the most modest and ambitious restaurants to open in recent memory. It's a love letter to another city, written in food, by one of our greatest culinary poets." [24] 'Jonathan Gold, who had by then moved from LA Weekly to the Los Angeles Times, wrote that "there may be no better plate of escargot in town than at the new Petit Trois." [25] Lesley Balla for Angeleno Magazine called it "Petit Perfection", saying "this is a neighborhood bistro for true artistes, after all, created by culinary rockstars. And, unsurprisingly, it is a smash hit." [26] Petit Trois was a 2015 James Beard finalist for Best New Restaurant. [27]

Television appearances Edit

In 2006, Ludo appeared on Iron Chef America, challenging Mario Batali in a battle of Big Eye Tuna, where Batali prevailed. [28] Beginning in 2009, Lefebvre appeared on the first and second seasons of Top Chef Masters. [29] He was a guest judge on season 8 of Hell's Kitchen in 2010. [28] In 2011 alongside his wife, Krissy, he starred in a seven-episode series entitled Ludo Bites America on the Sundance Channel. [29]

In January 2013, Ludo joined Anthony Bourdain and Nigella Lawson as a judge/mentor on the ABC prime time cook competition show called The Taste, and was named the "break-out star" of the show by the New York Times. Returning for seasons two and three alongside Bourdain, Lawson, and Marcus Samuelsson, Ludo was pronounced the winning mentor of the hit competition series in season two. In addition, Ludo starred alongside Bourdain and Lawson in the UK version of the show in 2014, where "Team Ludo" took home the trophy and he was declared the winning mentor.

Other TV appearances include: The Today Show, Access Hollywood, Extra!, CNN Money, The Talk, Carson Daly, NPR Morning Edition, The Rachel Ray Show, Good Morning America, Andrew Zimmern's Bizarre Eats and a very special episode of No Reservations in his home town in Burgundy. [28]

In 2016 he was featured as the host chef on Season 5 of Mind of a Chef. Full episodes can be found on The Mind of a Chef website full episodes

Ludo also shares his love of home cooked meals by creating the web-only series, Ludo à la Maison. You can check out the episodes on Ludo's website, or on www.foodandwine.com [30]

In 2020, Ludo appeared on Selena Gomez's cooking series, "Selena + Chef".

Book Edit

In 2005, Lefebvre released his first book, Crave: The Feast of the Five Senses. [31] It categorizes recipes by sense: "See", "Touch", "Smell", "Hear", and "Taste". [31] The book won second place in the cookbook category in the New York Book Show. [32]

In 2012, LudoBites: Recipes and Stories from the Pop-Up Restaurants of Ludo Lefebvre was released. [33] LudoBites is a chronicle and a cookbook, containing tales of the career of this "rock star" of the culinary world and the full story of his brilliant innovation, the "pop-up" or "touring" restaurant that moves from place to place.

In 2015, Lefebvre released a special 10th Anniversary Edition of his first cookbook, Crave: The Feast of the Five Senses, with new photography, a new cover shot by Lionel Deluy and a crowd-sourced cover art campaign in conjunction with Talent House. Hundred of submissions poured in from across the globe, and ultimately the cover design was awarded to Charles Stanley Doll IV. [34]

Awards Edit

Rising in prominence in the culinary world, Ludo was a finalist for the James Beard Foundation "Rising Chef Award" in 2001, and was named by Relais & Châteaux as one of the World's 50 Greatest Chefs. His restaurant Petit Trois was a 2015 James Beard finalist for Best New Restaurant. In 2017, Ludo was finalist for James Beard Best Chef West Award, as well as for Best Culinary Program for his performance on The Mind of a Chef.

In the summer of 2017, Ludo made a cameo appearance in the Apple Movie, The Rock x Siri "Dominate the Day" alongside Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

Cooking at home is very important to Ludo and he has created an at-home video series, entitled "Ludo à la Maison" demonstrating home recipes with fun stories from his life in France and professional kitchens. Episodes are shot in his home kitchen and distributed through www.foodandwine.com. Dishes include such dishes as Moules la creme Chocolate Mousse Sole Meuniere Lamb Chops Ratatouille Parisian Gnocchi Floating Island and Steak Frites. Episodes are released two times per year. As of Summer 2017, 28 episodes have been produced. Ludo's wife and business partner, Krissy, produces the videos in partnership with Big Tex Entertainment, Director Jeff Ross.

Other Media Appearances Edit

In October of 2018, Lefebvre appeared on the YouTube show Feast Mansion on the channel First we Feast with Joji and Rich Brian. [35]

In August of 2019, Lefebvre made another appearance on the YouTube show Feast Mansion on the channel First we Feast. [36]

Lefebvre was the guest chef in the first episode of Selena + Chef, Selena Gomez's cooking show on HBO Max.

Lefebvre has described his food as "French with an international flavor." Some of Ludo's best-known dishes include rack of lamb in a caraway-seasoned broth with baby vegetables, entrecôte with vanilla flavored potato purée, and cardamom and pericarp pepper encrusted lamb. [1] He has been known for using over 200 spices and believes that his most unusual "truc" (technique) is making crême chantilly with fats other than cream, which he learned from Pierre Gagnaire, and his favorite cookbook is Le Pyramide Cookbook by Fernand Point.

Lefebvre resides in Sherman Oaks, California, with his wife Kristine and their twins, Luca and Rêve.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Plume -- Restaurant Review

24 Rue Pierre Leroux
75007 Paris
Tel: 01 43 06 79 85
Bus: 89, Metro: Vaneau (10) & Duroc (10&13)
Closed: Sundays & Mondays

This restaurant newly opened about 2-months ago. There's a lot of hype from the local media (e.g., Le Fooding), so our good friend J suggested we go. The restaurant is in the 7eme, a very posh area of Paris. As you entered the restaurant you notice that it's quite small, very tight, but not uncomfortable. There are 20 seats, not including a high table to the right as you entered that had a very tall table, almost like a tall bistro table for two.

At first impression the wait staff were very attentive, they took our jackets and asked us what we wanted to drink. Foregoing aperitifs, we ordered our usual one bottle each of white and a red. We perused the menu, and they had a very reasonable prix fixe menu as well as their à la carte menu.

All the restaurants I have been to since the start of 2016 gave us an amuse bouche, so I thought it interesting that they did not provide an amuse bouche, but that's OK, it was just something I noted.

JJ and I decided to get the prix fixe menu, whereas our friend J went à la carte menu.

Voluté de champaignons rosés, (Cream of chestnut mushrooms). We all got this dish. J did note that there were hints of truffles in the soup. Interesting, none of us at the table really care for truffles, but despite the inclusion of the truffles we found the dish just ordinary. It was creamy, had good flavoring, and with the 3-added croutons it gave a nice textural element, But again, just seemed ordinary and did not wow any of us.

Lieu noir, flower-sprout et beurre d'estragon, ("Coal fish" (pollack), flower-sprout and tarragon butter). JJ and I had this dish. The fish was perfectly cooked. The skin was crispy and the flesh was extremely moist. That's where it ends, there's a saying in French, "C'est fade" meaning it's bland. When I say bland it was painfully under-seasoned. Thank God the wait person gave us some "sel de mer" coarse sea salt. The greens, which we assumed to be baby kale, on it's own had more flavor than the fish. We were very underwhelmed by this dish.

Margret de canard, topinambours, blettes de couleurs et airelles, (Duck breast, artichokes, chard and cranberries). J ordered this dish. It was a nicely presented dish. I took a bite of the end piece and we both agreed it was over-cooked, almost tough, but as we got closer to the center it was more medium rare. I suppose the cut of the breast which was a bit uneven resulted in an uneven cook. Despite that it was tasty. I did, however, find the artichokes a bit rubbery. Again, a good passable dish, minus the tough ends of the duck.

Ananas roti, chèvre frais au citron vert, ( Roasted pineapple, fresh goat cream and lime). Cheese with lime? JJ was not too happy with this dish despite liking cheese and liking citrus. A bad combination. The roasted pineapple also was not endearing.



Tanzania 75% et fruits de la passion, (Tanzania chocolate 75% cocoa and passion fruit). This was probably the highlight of all our meal. The passion fruit ice cream with the chocolate mousse was a nice combination. The passion fruit had imparted a nice tart flavor and the chocolate mouse had a nice strong bitter-sweet chocolate taste which is characteristic of high content cocoa desserts. And, the crumble added a ice textural element to the dish. So, this was our saving dish of the day.


Vielle mimolette 24 mois, (Mimolette cheese aged for 24 months). Like I always say, you can never go wrong with cheese in France. This was a nice aged cheese. As cheese ages, salt crystals form and that's the part of what I love most about aged cheeses. It came with an accompaniment of an apple compote.

This restaurant has been written up as the new upcoming star to watch. Well like I always say, taste is subjective. We unanimously disagreed with the recent brouhaha about this restaurant. The restaurant is cute enough and the noise levels fluctuated between 70.9dB and 76dB, which is acceptable. The service started out great, but then it faltered. First of all, when we ordered our red wine, not only did the server not give any of us a chance to taste the wine, he poured a full glass for JJ and left. Having lived in Paris since 2008 I have to say that was a first for any of us, and the WEIRDEST experience ever. The French take such great pride in their wines, and to not allow us to taste it first, this act was almost treasonous. Secondly, after we finished our main courses we asked to get the menu back so we could look at the desserts, our wait person said OK, put on her jacket and left the restaurant to have a cigarette and/or make a phone call? We of course had to wait until she finished her cigarette but still had to ask the other waiter to bring us the menu. The service staff in the restaurant are pleasant enough, but really?

Now onto the food. The prices are reasonable and they have a nice selection of wines (JJ wouldn't know since his clipboard menu did not include the list). But the food was very underwhelming. The soup was ordinary, but it was tasty. And, although the fish was cooked perfectly, I can only describe it in one word, 'BLAND.' The duck was unevenly cooked. The saving grace for this whole meal was the chocolate and passion fruit.

We had two bottles of wine a red Terra Lisa 2013, and a white Eric Chevalier les 3 bois. The red was a nice light bio red wine with more rounded edges, whereas the white was also light, but much dryer. With two prix-fixe menus, one a la carte of 3-courses, and one coffee our meal came to 138€ for 3-people. I personally would not go back.


Divine Restoration: Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the Oldest Church in Paris

Halfway through a major five-year restoration, the Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés – the oldest church in Paris – is emerging phoenix-like from its time-worn gloom. Jennifer Ladonne investigates

No neighbourhood in Paris captures the imagination like Saint-Germain-des-Prés. In the minds of Parisians and visitors alike, it conjures a long history of sparring intellectuals and trailblazing authors and artists, whose preferred cafés and watering holes still figure prominently in the glamorous Left Bank lore. But the most enduring star in this heady constellation is the church that gave this borough in the 6th arrondissement its name. An abiding presence in the heart of the capital, the abbey has remained a steadfast symbol of Paris for visitors from all countries, faiths and walks of life.

Restored pillars, Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés. © AGENCE PIERRE-ANTOINE GATIER, P. VOISIN

A BRIEF HISTORY

A few rebuildings and a relatively brief desacralisation aside, the Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés has presided over the neighbourhood in exactly the same spot for more than 1,450 years, since the time of the first kings of France. King Childebert, the son of Clovis I, founded the church and monastery in 543, far enough from the marshy banks of the Seine to avoid flooding but close enough to profit from the river basin’s fertile meadows (prés). First named Saint-Vincent, the edifice was founded to house holy relics and the tunic of Saint Vincent of Saragossa, Spain, and was headed by Bishop Germain d’Autun. After his death in 576, Autun was sainted and the church rededicated to Saint Germain (who was buried there, along with all the Merovingian kings, until the late 8th century, when they were reinterred at Saint-Denis, Paris’s official royal necropolis).

Monks Choir before restoration. © Agence Pierre-Antoine Gatier, P. Voisin

The earliest abbey was richly dressed in a style befitting its status as a major pilgrimage stop. Adorned with tall marble columns, opulent paintings, mosaic tile floors and a gilded copper-clad roof that reflected the sunlight, the abbey was also endowed with vast tracts of fertile lands along the Seine and beyond. Besides a worn cornerstone still visible just inside the stunning Saint-Symphorien chapel – to the immediate right of the church entrance – and a marker for Saint Germain’s original tomb, there are no visible remains of the original edifice, which was looted and burned by rampaging Normans towards the end of the 10th century.

Restoration underway. © Agence Pierre-Antoine Gatier, P. Voisin

But, around the year 1000, a new basilica rose from the rubble in the newly-fashionable Romanesque style. The well-trodden entrance porch and central nave of that structure make up the oldest part of the church still standing today. By 1150, a grand remodelling project was underway, one of the very first to use the Gothic style in its arcades, three-tiered false loggias, arched windows and rounded ambulatory, all still visible today, as well as three towers (only one is still standing) and elegant flying buttresses – an innovation that predated those of Notre-Dame Cathedral, whose ground-breaking took place in 1163, almost simultaneously with the dedication of the restored Saint-Germain basilica.

By the 1630s the abbey was a major intellectual centre of France, along with the nearby Sorbonne, with which it exchanged – and squabbled over – land. Thanks to donations, purchases and a host of famous resident scholars, the abbey’s library, stocked with thousands of rare manuscripts painstakingly hand-copied over the centuries by the monks, was one of the largest and most important in France.

Waiting for restoration. Photo: Jennifer Ladonne

But the Revolution would dispense with all that. The monks were disbanded in 1790, and physically expelled from the monastery in 1792, all resisters executed. The church and its buildings were repurposed as a refinery for saltpetre, a major component of gunpowder. Predictably, in 1794 a fire broke out in the factory, causing a powerful explosion that destroyed almost everything but – miraculously – the basilica itself, which remained desacralised until the closure of the factory in 1802. If you linger on a bench in the abbey garden to the left of the entrance, you will sit among the few remaining fragments of the monks’ dwellings.

Though services resumed in 1803, the Revolution had taken an immense toll on the church and, despite various restorations, by the 1820s parts of the edifice were in danger of collapse. City architects (the abbey was now the property of the City of Paris) declared the church unsalvageable, while parishioners and other champions, including Victor Hugo, lobbied passionately to save it. And so, around 1840 began a major restoration – one that would last more than 30 years, spanning both the Second Empire and the Third Republic, resulting in the church we see today.

Restored pillars, virgin found in parking lot excavation, nearby on Place Furstenburg. Photo: Jennifer Ladonne

REDISCOVERED SPLENDOUR

Until 2016-2017, when the restorations on the sanctuary began, visitors to the abbey received an almost paradoxical first impression: the steep, graceful uplift of its Gothic pillars and delicate vaulting in marked contrast with its dusky, vaguely brooding interiors. A dolorous effect was created by years of water damage and grime darkening the walls and arched stained glass windows – some dating back 1,000 years – and obscuring the exquisite decorative wall paintings and murals languishing from the 1840s restoration. Much of the mystique and the unique identity of the abbey are thanks to these murals, most notably the works of Hippolyte Flandrin, a celebrated student of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, who studied in Rome and was deeply influenced by Italian painting and fresco techniques.

Philippe Langlois, chairman of the foundation in charge of fundraising. Photo: Jennifer Ladonne

In 1842, Flandrin was commissioned to create a monumental series of murals on historic and religious themes for the church.

“He was called ‘the new Fra Angelico’ of his time,” says Philippe Langlois, chairman of the Fonds de Dotation pour le Rayonnement de l’Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés (FDD), the French foundation in charge of fundraising.

“All the colour you see is the original paint, perfectly preserved in a layer of encaustic wax, a technique reinvented from the Renaissance.”

The church at night. © Agence Pierre-Antoine Gatier, P. Voisin

Using only a mild soap, tiny brushes, sponges and Q-tips, the gorgeous, saturated colours and gilding of the walls and pillars are being liberated section by section from their former gloom to utterly dazzling effect. But if the process is painstaking, so is the fundraising. While the City of Paris, still the owner of the walls and real estate of the church, takes much of the glory for the project, it contributes a mere 15 per cent of the funding. The rest must be raised by the church itself through appeals to private donors.

The restoration is unfolding in six well-documented phases that began in 2013 and will last until 2021, at a total cost of €5.7 million. Peanuts compared with the more than €20 million earmarked for the restoration of Chartres (now in its 10th year) and the estimated €150 million and 30 years it will take to spruce up Notre-Dame Cathedral. The FDD, in partnership with the American Friends for the Preservation of Saint-Germain-des-Prés (www.preservesaintgermain.org), has raised half of the total through several innovative initiatives, of which 100 per cent of the proceeds go directly into the preservation fund. American board member David Sheppe is passionately involved in the mission.

“We have accomplished a great deal since our campaign started,” he says. “But funding is always in short supply.”

The nave before work. © Agence Pierre-Antoine Gatier, P. Voisin.

Funding may be lacking, but not good ideas or avid supporters. Last December, Christie’s Paris hosted an auction of 40 contemporary artworks by the likes of Yves Klein, Josef Albers, Damien Hirst, Claes Oldenburg and Anish Kapoor – all donated by sympathetic galleries, collectors and the artists themselves – in which three of the works fetched more than €100,000 apiece.

But there is still quite a way to go. Committed donors of means can fund their very own section of the sanctuary. But in one of the foundation’s more exciting initiatives, Adopt a Saint Germain StarTM, benefactors of more modest means can choose any one of the 3,000 newly-glimmering stars on the abbey’s splendid vaulted ceilings for a $100 donation. The star will be illuminated with the donor’s, or a loved one’s, name on the American Friends website’s interactive ceiling for all to see. Individuals from anywhere in the world, lovers of Paris and Saint-Germain may find this an excellent way to leave their own indelible mark on the neighbourhood and on Paris.

As Langlois emphasises: “This is not a Catholic foundation but an arts and cultural movement and a celebration to transmit what we have received to generations to come.”

From France Today magazine

The restoration scaffolding. Photo: Jennifer Ladonne


Kerouac’s Mexico

I found Jack Kerouac’s Mexico on a strip of beach that separated the old hotels from the heaving Pacific, at a bar near where he sat on the sea wall and watched the sunset 61 years ago.

My best friends in Mazatlán, whom I had met only a day earlier, were behind me arguing and laughing. But with a beer in hand and my own perfect view of daylight’s final yawn, I was too blissed out to talk. The crashing waves sounded like drums, and everyone in the water seemed to be dancing: a tangle of teenagers splashed around and flirted, their wiry limbs shimmering like lures, then came a dazzling woman wearing a bathing suit of rainbow stripes, her bare feet catching the surf, her long hair waving in the breeze.

That moment was the closest I got to channeling Kerouac on my journey inspired by his 1952 bus trip from the Arizona border to Mexico City. The scene before me called to mind the Mazatlán he described to Allen Ginsberg: “hot and flat right on the surf, no tourists whatever, the wonder spot of the Mexicos really but nobody hardly knows, a dusty crazy wild city on beautiful Acapulco surfs.”

Still, I wondered, how much did Kerouac’s romantic vision match up with reality?

Mazatlán is one of the many places that the Beats used to bolster the idea of Mexico as the destination for debauched recreation and self-discovery. Hollywood headed south first (Errol Flynn and John Wayne vacationed along Mexico’s Pacific coast), but Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, who moved to Mexico City in 1949 to avoid a drug charge in New Orleans, laid down in literature a charmingly simple notion of the country that has endured.

Kerouac was a mythmaker in many respects. His writing turned struggling friends into epic heroes, and persuaded many youthful vagabonds (my former self included) to go now, to find saints among the sinners. Along the way, he created an impression that he and his ilk were not tourists, but rather ideal American travelers, engaged and sensitive, “desirous of everything at the same time,” as he wrote in “On the Road.”

But really, his “everything” was limited. Kerouac came to Mexico a half-dozen times in the ’50s and ’60s to experience greater freedom with drugs, drinking, writing and sex, in roughly that order. He stopped in Mazatlán for only a few hours, and though he told Ginsberg that sitting along the coast with his new Mexican friend and guide, Enrique, “was one of the great mystic rippling moments of my life,” he also insisted on hopping back on the bus to hurry on to Burroughs in Mexico City.

“Kerouac never took Mexico very seriously,” said Jorge García-Robles, a Mexican editor who has written several books about the Beats in Mexico. “It was a symbol more than something real.”

That attitude has been shaping Mexico ever since. Even now, as a correspondent here since 2010, I often see links between the idyllic American fantasy and Mexico’s most obvious failures (security) and triumphs (contemporary art). But Kerouac was a pioneer. And as a follower, I wanted to see where he went right or wrong, and what had changed since he helped define Mexico for millions of readers. Following the route from Mazatlán to Mexico City, I hoped to figure out if his dreamy vision could still be found, even as I confronted some of the cold, hard tragedies that many Americans miss.

As I sat soaking my feet in the rooftop pool at the renovated Hotel Freeman, Mazatlán’s first hotel tower, I could understand why the gringos came. The view ran up and down the Pacific coast, from the green islands offshore to the winding road heading south toward Puerto Vallarta. A light breeze kept me cool. The only sound came from the old elevator lurching to various floors.

It was the 1944 original, and initially quite a marvel. In old photos from its early years, the hotel towers over its neighbors, like a beacon of modernity — or a greedy grab for business. The builder was the son of Americans and even before the high-rise appeared, American ambition had put its stamp on the city. The first regular visitors to Mazatlán were 49ers, mining executives who used the port to reach rich mineral deposits farther inland. Their early rustic hotels for workers naturally led to greater ambitions. In addition to the Hotel Freeman and a few other properties on the main drag of Olas Altas, Americans also built the first beachfront resort in the tourist-centric Zona Dorada, or Golden Zone, a few miles north.

The early developers were betting on the growing desire by Mexico’s northern neighbors to vacation abroad, but with success came a predictable boom characterized by a boxy, generic style that would soon appear in Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, Ixtapa and elsewhere. My newfound friends in Mazatlán, Dr. Juan Fernando Barraza and Victor Coppel, were among the many who disagreed on whether Mazatlán’s rapid growth from the ’60s through the ’80s — with all-inclusive resorts, time sharing and cruise lines — changed the city for the better.

Over our first meal together, a lunch of coconut-crusted shrimp at the Pueblo Bonito hotel, Dr. Barraza, 62, argued that it was an era defined by excess. Sinaloa, the state where Mazatlán is, was already a major source of marijuana in the United States by Kerouac’s time (a detail he had to know), but as American drug use increased in the decades that followed, Dr. Barraza said the easy money and the influence of American partyers gradually pushed Mazatlán from its simple roots.

“We haven’t copied the best Americans, but the worst,” said the doctor, who spent much of his career traveling the world as a physician on cruise ships.

Mr. Coppel, 60, a retired Mexican banker whose family has been influential here since the 1880s, insisted that it wasn’t that bad: American visitors have lifted the local economy by spending more than Mexicans or Canadians, according to business owners. He also emphasized that Mazatlán has long been a hub for shrimping, fishing and trade, making it less like Cancún and “kind of like San Francisco.”

Both my unofficial guides — relatives of a friend of mine in Los Angeles — did agree on one thing: Mazatlán was facing another moment of reconsideration. This city of 440,000 people now finds itself on the hungover side of a binge that began around Kerouac’s time, and as with Mexico itself, it is often hard to tell whether the future should be met with optimism or despair.

After lunch, Dr. Barraza took us to a location that perfectly captured the uncertainty: an abandoned oceanfront home squeezed between two new high-rise apartment buildings on the main tourist strip.

Viewed while looking west from the house’s patio, Mazatlán was a promising paradise: soft sand, warm water and a sea rich with shrimp and tuna. Turn around, though, and there was the graffiti-tagged house, formerly owned by drug cartel capos, followed by others. On the way to the Hotel Siesta, home to a Kerouac memorial plaque and the Shrimp Bucket — a restaurant founded in 1963 by the same Mexican and American partners who created the apex of night-life cheesiness, Señor Frog’s — we drove by another empty drug mansion and its adjacent nightclub. It had been closed for years. With giant fake rocks on the facade, it looked like a Disney prototype on meth.

That night we had dinner with a few Mazatlán intellectuals at a restaurant owned by Alfredo Gómez Rubio, the raspy-voiced president of the Centro Histórico Project, which is renovating the city center to draw people back from the Zona Dorada. With outdoor seating on the main plaza, the area is a centerpiece of the remodeling efforts, but when we arrived, I had just checked into the El Cid Castilla Beach, one of the best-known “Golden Zone” resorts. It was a total disaster. First the hotel staff overcharged me by nearly $500 then they ran out of towels at the pool.

Mr. Gómez Rubio called the whole tourist zone a mistake. “There was no concept or style,” he said. His restaurant by the main plaza, Pedro & Lola, couldn’t be further from that description. It featured a tasty menu heavy on shrimp and featured redwood beams brought from California in the 1850s. Mr. Gómez Rubio also owns the Hotel Melville a few blocks away (the author of “Moby Dick” visited in 1844), and he was a fan of Kerouac. As soon as I sat down, he showed me a worn Kerouac paperback with Spanish text and pink highlighter tracked over a paragraph that started “oh the sacred sea of Mazatlán” and ended with Kerouac praising “the city of the innocence.”

Mr. Gómez Rubio insisted that Mazatlán still deserves to be called a paradise. He said the drug violence that scared off Americans and cruise ship operators — it peaked in 2011, when a Canadian tourist was shot in the leg while caught in the cross-fire — was back under control. With gang warfare and street crime returning to lower levels. Mexican tourists were filling the void left by Americans, he said, and retirees were moving in. “We’re shifting the market,” he said. “We’re learning.”

I wanted to believe it. At times, I did: drinking that final beer and eating ahi tuna at La Corriente walking through El Quelite, a tiny town 20 minutes outside Mazatlán, where a local doctor turned his family home into a full rural experience, with food, animals and a kitschy performance by a Mexican cowboy.

But there were still so many dark omens. Kerouac’s vision of Mazatlán — and Mr. Gómez Rubio’s — left out the consequences of the Mexican lawlessness that, while allowing for epic highs, also produces refugees who are moving into fields on the city’s edge because teenagers with guns and dreams of cartel riches are demanding money to live in their rural mountain villages. Thousands of displaced families now occupy the no man’s land between El Quelite and new beachfront developments, and I found them only with help from Dr. Barraza and Mr. Coppel. That is where I met José Enciso Loaiza, who was hammering together a bed near a new slum named Las Vegas. He said 70 of the 90 families in his small town had already fled because of violence and government impotence. His life, from the pastoral to the punishing, was literature begging to be written.

When Kerouac reached Mexico City at dawn after a long bus ride through Guadalajara, he caught a few hours of sleep in “a criminal’s hovel,” then made his way to Burroughs’s house in La Roma, a turn-of-the-century neighborhood of grand old homes that was starting to slip into disrepair. Kerouac was supposed to meet up with Enrique later, but his heart wasn’t in it he never told him where Burroughs lived, and then Wild Bill “persuaded me to stick to him instead of Enrique.”

With that, Kerouac lost “a guy who could teach me where, what to buy, where to live, on nothing-a-month” and instead joined Burroughs’s insular world of Americans supposedly studying at a small college in La Roma that accepted payments from the G.I. Bill. Kerouac had visited in 1950 with Neal Cassady (the inspiration for Dean Moriarty in “On the Road”) so he knew what to expect: rowdy gringos a chance to drink and write, maybe fight, maybe love.

My arrival in La Roma after an overnight bus with lots of Mexican college students and fully reclined seats could not have been more different. It started with Alonso Vera Cantú, 33, a minor La Roma celebrity known as Pata de Perro — slang for someone with wanderlust — dragging me to a cramped breakfast counter for an almond latte and a sublime pastry drenched in olive oil and sugar. I had found Mr. Vera Cantú through his neighbor, a host of the popular local Twitter feed @LaRomaDF, and he clearly knew what he was doing. The coffee shop, La Panaderia, was relatively new, and between the food, the classical music, and the thin young women in tight houndstooth skirts, it could have been Paris.

That was La Roma’s original ideal the neighborhood was mostly American-built and French-inspired. But more recently, something more Mexican and contemporary has begun to emerge. Indeed if Mazatlán reflects what can go wrong when American excess mixes with Mexican impunity, La Roma represents what can go right when Mexicans with a taste of the world zero in on a single community.

As recently as 2000, the area was in serious trouble: seedy and old, marked by crumbling homes condemned after the 1985 earthquake and strip clubs lousy with lap dances. In some ways, it had reached the logical end point to what Kerouac enjoyed and wrote about in “Tristessa,” his novella about a Mexican prostitute. But its spaces were too good to give up, and eventually creative types moved in.

“When we started, it was rough,” said Walter Meyenberg, who opened the area’s first mezcal bar (La Botica) nine years ago when he was 27. “My first six months here, I was assaulted five times.” His arms were covered with tattoos as bright as flames. “La Roma’s like the meatpacking district in New York,” he said. “It’s going from rough to trendy to mainstream.” That’s when it’s ruined, he added.

For now, though, the neighborhood seems to be lingering in that sweet spot where rents are relatively affordable and whimsy thrives. A few blocks away from where we started, Mr. Vera Cantú — tall, with a head of tight brown curls — walked me into an old town house with a boutique on the first floor called 180º. The owners, José Carlos Iglesias and Bernardo López, worked on the second floor, and on the third, they rented rooms for less than $100 a night to friends or acquaintances with creative projects. All through the building, from the century-old family photos to the new T-shirts and bags, the style was unmistakably Mexican, and undeniably worldly.

I remembered what Mr. Vera Cantú had told me earlier about La Roma: “You can have tacos one minute, Champagne the next.” In this case, Mr. Iglesias, 37, had recently come back to Mexico (from working in Europe) to join Mr. López, 37 (who studied in Boston), for a romantic idea and a creative business — a fusion of past and present, Mexican and international.

All over the neighborhood, I saw a similar brew. “It’s so much easier for Mexicans to get out of the country now,” said Gerardo Traeger Mendoza, a co-owner of the Traeger & Pinto art gallery. “We’ve really reached a different point in terms of our relationship to the world.”

Mr. Vera Cantú was another obvious example. A travel writer, radio host and online curator of La Roma experiences, he took off around lunchtime, heading to France. That left me time to look for where Burroughs had hosted Kerouac. Their section of the neighborhood was still a little run down, but almost every block had a cafe and a restaurant.

On one tiny street near Plaza Luis Cabrera, where the Beats used to hang out, I noticed a deli cooler that seemed to be rolling into the sidewalk. It was filled with fine cheeses from Mexico, Spain and France, and the longhaired man at the counter was the owner. After giving me a taste of some strong cheese from Chihuahua, he told me the empty shelves behind him would soon be filled with good wine, for under $10 a bottle. “It’s for people who live in the neighborhood,” he said.

As I suspected, food and drink — always strong in Mexico — were becoming catalysts for growth. But corruption was still holding things back. Business owners said permits typically require bribes. To some degree, they argued, not much has changed since corruption helped Burroughs flee a murder charge after he shot and killed his wife during a game of William Tell a few months before Kerouac’s 1952 visit. Kerouac ran into it, too he avoided trouble early on in his trip when caught with marijuana by giving the cop some of his stash.

But these days, at least in La Roma, there is also a new check on the usual abuse of power.

Consider the case of Maximo Bistrot, one of the best restaurants in La Roma if not all of Mexico. In April, a social media revolt kept government inspectors from shutting it down after the daughter of the director of Mexico’s main consumer protection agency complained about not receiving the table she wanted. Then came an even greater coup: Enrique Peña Nieto, president of Mexico, fired her father, the agency chief.

When I showed up for lunch, the restaurant’s chef and owner, Eduardo García, 34, told me there are now fewer patrons asking, “Don’t you know who I am?” He said he still worries about inspectors, but he also refuses to pay anyone off. “I’m not going to live outside the law, with them in charge,” he said. It was a bold statement, given how Mexico works.

But then Mr. García, bearded and broad-shouldered, is the son of migrant workers who took him north at age 5. He learned to cook in their restaurant in Atlanta before heading to Le Bernardin in New York, and though he could have opened a bistro anywhere, he did it here, in Mexico, in La Roma.

The result? My own Mexican paradise: French wine, innovative Mexican food, with 1960s American soul playing in the background.

It wasn’t nearly as rustic or drug-fueled as Kerouac’s version, but as I finished eating — a wonder of roasted red pepper soup and yellowtail sashimi with chiles and avocado — I tried to imagine what Kerouac would have made of it.

Maybe it depends on which Kerouac we imagine. He was 30 when he took that bus trip, and he was mostly too self-absorbed to see beyond the “frenzy and a dream” that defined his visit in “On the Road.” Clearly, young Kerouac would have ignored Maximo Bistrot and the refugees in Mazatlán. But what about Kerouac as an old man? If he hadn’t died from alcoholism in 1969 at age 47, maybe he would have moved to Mexico and tried harder to understand and explain the country.

Yes, I thought as I lingered at my table, indulging in another moment of Kerouac-inspired bliss. With more time alive and in Mexico, Kerouac could have been someone that Mexico and the United States still sorely need: a binational conscience. Imagine the trips he could have made, the complicated, multilayered stories he could have told about life on both sides of the border. Imagine the everything.


Pan-Roasted Halibut, Chanterelles with Pea Shoots

I don’t cook with mushrooms a whole lot. In fact, I grew up not liking them, always pushing them aside on my plate. Now, I’m far from a lover of mushrooms (unless they’re truffles?), but I’ll usually eat them if put in front of me.

I stumbled upon some chanterelles at the Hollywood Farmers Market a couple weeks ago and just had to have them. I had no idea what I was gonna cook with them, but I was inspired to do something with them.

Taking my chanterelles home, I browsed through some of my cookbooks to figure out the rest of the dish. Immediately catching my eye was a recipe in Ad Hoc at Home for sauteed chanterelle mushrooms with pea shoots. It was relatively easy to do and I had most of the ingredients on hand. A recommended protein pairing was another recipe in the cookbook: pan-roasted halibut. My planning was done.

The two recipes, from Ad Hoc at Home:

Pan-roasted halibut

2 pounds halibut fillet, cut into 12 rectangular pieces
Kosher salt
Canola oil
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fleur de sel

Remove the fish from the refrigerator and let stand for 15 minutes.

Position oven racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Check the halibut to be sure all bones were removed. Season on both sides with salt. Add some canola oil to two large ovenproof frying pans and heat over high heat until it shimmers. (If you don’t have two pans, cook the fish in batches and transfer to a rack set over a baking sheet, then finish in the oven.) Add 6 pieces of halibut to each pan, presentation (nicer) side down, lower the heat to medium-high, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the bottom of the fish is golden. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 2 more minutes. Transfer the pans to the oven and cook for about 2 minutes, until just cooked through.

Remove the pans from the oven, flip the fish over, and “kiss” the second side for about 30 seconds. Transfer to a platter, and serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of fleur de sel.

Chanterelle mushrooms with pea shoots

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons of finely chopped shallots
3 thyme sprigs
8 ounces small chanterelles or other mushrooms in season, trimmed and washed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4-1/2 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cups pea shoots
Extra virgin olive oil
Fleur de sel

Melt the butter in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook the shallots for 2 to 3 minuntes, until tender. Add the thyme and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are almost tender (if the pan becomes too dry, add a little of the chicken stock).

Add 1/4 cup chicken stock and cook, adding more stock as needed, about 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mushrooms are tender. Continue to cook until the stock is reduced to a glaze. Discard the thyme.

Add the pea shoots and stir just to wilt and incorporate, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with fleur de sel.

I began with the chanterelles, cooking them according to the recipe. I wasn’t too worried about this part of the dish it was pretty straightforward.

I was more concerned about the fish. I wanted to ensure I got a crispy, golden crust while not overcooking. The recipe called for the halibut to be cooked almost entirely on one side, carefully controlling the heat. It would only be flipped over at the end to finish the other side for 30 seconds.

I was pretty happy with the way it turned out. My fish broke apart a little bit as I was flipping it and I wanted a little more browning, but temperature-wise I think I had it down. While a meaty fish, it stayed pretty moist. The chanterelles were delicious, and I really liked the bright crispness that the pea shoots brought to the plate. It was relatively quick to make too, always a plus. However, it was on the expensive side – the raw ingredients cost about $30 for the one plate.


Watch the video: Le Grand fooding (August 2022).