“I want to play the music that I play in my house, and if you come to my house, I put on rap. And it’s French rap.”
I’ve called Los Angeles chef Ludo Lefebvre to not necessarily talk about Trois Mec, his new Hancock Park restaurant with the guys from Animal, Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo. I’ve not dined there, but I've read some pretty promising reviews. “You don't come to eat anything specific here. You come to eat Lefebvre's food,” wrote Jonathan Gold in the Los Angeles Times, before praising a deconstructed choucroûte with: 1. blood-rare Iberico pork; 2. a smear of blood sausage purée; 3. braised lamb belly with a Tunisian-style harissa. Lefebvre spent serious time with Robuchon and Gagnaire, but Trois Mec is not trying to be serious. It’s loose. It’s relaxed. It’s even vulgar.
Which arrives at the point of the call. The reviews I had read didn't just focus on the cuisine (French Nouvelle remixed by Justice), but on the restaurant’s soundtrack. Particularly, the French rap being played. If Gold had his way, the menu would include a stamp.
I’ve gotta say, everyone’s talking about the music at your place…
Isn’t it crazy, seriously? I mean the two big reviews I get I was surprised to see how the critics are talking about the music so much.
As the L.A. Weekly review recounts in the lede, you got pretty pissed off when an unspecified indie rock song was being played…
I don’t know what it was, I think it was just too boring or didn’t fit in the restaurant. You know, it was the beginning of the night and the restaurant was not full yet. We just opened the door, and we had like two people at the bar. And the music was just so peaceful, so boring peaceful, and I just did not like it with the ambiance of the restaurant. When you’re the first one in a restaurant sometimes it can be a bit intimidating — because it’s just you in the restaurant or only a few people, and you don’t want to talk because people can hear you talking. And the restaurant is so tiny. It’s 800 square feet. So I want people to feel like the cooks don’t listen to them when they talk. I want them to have their privacy. That’s why I put some good French rap to put some ambiance…
Yeah, French rap, and that’s what Jonathan Gold wrote about. Specifically, he wrote: “I almost hope you don't speak French, because the vulgarity of the French hip-hop usually on the sound system is pretty overwhelming.” Now, that dude used to write a lot of music reviews. He’s no prude. So what’s up with the rap?
I didn’t know Jonathan Gold was speaking French. It’s not that vulgar and it’s very difficult to know what they’re saying. Especially because the restaurant is very noisy, it’s difficult to understand what the rapper’s saying. Yeah, so I love French rap. I tried to do a refined restaurant between casual and fine dining room. It’s a new thing I tried to do. You know, elegant with great hospitality. Good ambiance. Great food. But I don’t want to put too much classical music on there. You know, I want to put music with a good rhythm.
Good rhythm, like it’s gotta be upbeat? Hence your anger towards the pussy indie rock?
Yes, and just two weeks after we opened the restaurant, people raved about the music. I put NTM on there. He’s a rapper from France from the '80s, and people just love it.
So what is he rapping about?
He’s rapping more about the society. How difficult it is in France to adapt. He’s just talking how it’s not easy when you come from another country to be successful or to get a job or go to school because you are from North Africa. Does it make sense what I’m saying?
Yeah, the immigration experience in France can be different than in the States…
Yeah and it’s very critical. I like it because I’m American, but I feel like an immigrant here. American people support me, you know. And I feel bad for these people in France because it’s not easy for them.
School me a little bit more on French hip-hop. When I think of French rap, I think of MC Solaar. Is he any good? You can say he’s shitty too, if he’s not good.
MC Solaar is good, but his rap is more peaceful. He doesn’t talk enough about real life. You know, life is difficult now, and the '80s were difficult too. MC Solaar is a great rapper too, but his style is more…I would say, he’s more a lover. MC Solaar is really the romantic rapper in France.
So when you and Jon and Vinny were talking about the vibe and talking about the music, what was that conversation like before you opened?
It was very, very difficult for us in the beginning to find the restaurant. We were putting rock, classic rock, American rap — I mean we tried everything. And I don’t know, I was not feeling it. And one night, I talked to my manager and said put on NTM. And I don’t know if it sounds romantic or something, but every night 50% of the customers came to us and say they love the music. And did you like the food? Yeah, but so what. You know what I mean? (laughing).
Have any musicians visited Trois Mec yet?
Yeah, just last week I had 50 Cent come to the restaurant. It was cool to cook for 50 Cent. Of course, I didn’t put his music…
That would be embarrassing. You’re not that guy…
But it was cool man. I put some French rap too, I mean, he loved it.
Did he have comments about the food? Was he into it?
Yeah, he tried everything. I was very surprised.