The first trailer for the new season of the award-winning PBS series The Mind of a Chef is out, and like previous incarnations, the show spotlights one of the brightest stars on the global food scene: Ludo Lefebvre, perhaps the most famous Frenchman in America right now.
In an exclusive interview with Food Republic, producer Gillian Brown and director Morgan Fallon gave us some insider scoop on the upcoming Season 5, which premieres this fall. (Full disclosure: The show is created by Food Republic parent company Zero Point Zero Production.)
Here’s what we can tell you about Lefebvre: The 45-year-old French-born Los Angeles-based chef is now in his 20th year cooking in the U.S. His restaurants, Trois Mec, Petit Trois, Trois Familia and Ludo Bird, are mandatory stops for local Angelenos and food-obsessed travelers alike. Previous TV appearances include The Taste and his own Sundance Channel show, Ludo Bites America. His lamb recipes (see here and here) are drool-worthy. Also: the dude is really into French rap and American television. “He came here because he loved Baywatch, he was infatuated with Pamela Anderson,” says director Fallon. “He wanted to come here, buy a Jeep, go surfing.”
Here’s what we can tell you about the show: Season 5 was filmed in Los Angeles and France with some curious pitstops along the way, like KFC. Also: expect cameos from various food-world luminaries, like acclaimed Los Angeles Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold and famed French chef Alain Passard.
Here’s some bigger picture stuff: producer Brown and director Fallon describe Lefebvre as the preeminent hybrid of American-French culinary sensibilities, a guy equally in love with American cheese and foie gras, a guy who also represents the last vestige of classically trained French chefs in the U.S., a guy uniquely and perfectly suited to America’s final frontier: Los Angeles. Oh, and he probably deserves credit for pioneering the pop-up restaurant, too.
“Here’s a guy who spent 14 years in French kitchens working under guys like Alain Passard and Marc Meneau and Pierre Gagnaire — that’s a rarity now,” says director Fallon. “He really paid his dues. His technical ability and level of understanding of classic French cooking is really extraordinary. But instead of just staying with classic French food, he came to Los Angeles and was exposed to this vast culinary landscape and all the different cultures: Korean, Mexican, Japanese, Indonesian and everything else that we have. He really soaked that culture up and integrated into his food. So what you get is this amazing range that he’s capable of, from doing things like the best fried chicken to super old-school French dishes. What I like so much about him is, he’s gotten to a point in his cooking where he doesn’t give a shit anymore. He’s going to be who he wants to be. He’s going to cook the food he wants to cook, and do it to make people happy — not for the critics, not for the Michelin stars. And he really means that.”
Producer Brown adds that Lefebvre’s impact on the larger American food scene cannot be overstated. “He really did pioneer the pop-up concept, with LudoBites back in 2007,” says Brown. “Before he did his LudoBites pop-up, he was working at L’Orangerie and Bastide, these French powerhouse institutions here, and he totally threw that out the window….In a lot of ways, he was a rebel, a rule-breaker. A lot of the people we visit this season, in one way or another, are rebels, breaking away from traditions.”
Stay tuned for more sneak peeks of Season 5 in the coming weeks. For now, there’s this: