Industry Insiders: Ludo Lefebvre, Lavo’s Messenger of Happiness

The creator of the Mediterranean masterwork menu at Lavo at the Palazzo in Vegas, chef Ludo Lefebvre on his rebel image, the year of the Aries, and succumbing to In-N-Out.

Where can you be found when kitchen duty is over? I like L’atelier de Joel Robuchon. The food is perfectly executed, and it is a comfortable environment. I also like Picasso at the Bellagio and Mix at the Mandalay. My other two current choices in Las Vegas are found off the Strip. First, Lotus of Siam. When you pull in to the parking lot, you will never expect the quality of food you are going to have. As soon as you open the door and see all of the press and the awards on the wall, you know that it’s going to be a special experience. I really love that the chef is doing what she loves, and not worried about a fancy environment. No one eats the curtains and the plates, so does it really matter?

Casa di Amore is another local’s restaurant off the Strip. I walk in and feel like I am visiting Las Vegas 30 years ago. It’s very classic Italian. There is live music most nights. I’ve won some money here at the video poker machines, so maybe that’s why I really like it. When we finished Christmas dinner at home, we all decided to go to Casa di Amore for a nightcap. It is just that kind of place. Finally, my friend Martin Picard opened up a restaurant in Montreal called Au Pied du Cochon. I love his concept. It’s great, simple food and a friendly, comfortable ambiance. He says that when you go to a restaurant to eat salad, you have a problem.

How would you describe yourself? I want to describe myself like an artist at heart. I love to be creative, and my food is really an expression of who I am. I am a messenger of happiness for the customer.

Where does this love of cooking come from? As a kid, I would stay with my grandmother all the time, and she cooked every day. My grandpa had a big garden with lots of fresh vegetables, and every day I was with my grandmother in the kitchen, cooking with fresh ingredients.

Do you use some of your grandmother’s recipes today? No, not really. Of course I have some memories of her food. I’m from Burgundy, and we make a lot of stews. I remember my grandmother’s stews, with roast beef and potatoes and lots of vegetables. It was very simple food but just all about ingredients — fresh from the garden.

Who are people that you admire in the hospitality industry? I love Jean-Georges Vongericthen. He has amazing restaurants, and he creates so many different concepts. I really admire him for what he’s done. To create concepts that allow you to eat your own food around world — I think that’s amazing. To take care of just one restaurants its so difficult, but Jean-Georges handles so many — and every time I’ve been to one, I had a great experience. He’s very creative, and I love his philosophy of cooking.

What is your favorite restaurant of his? I really love Spice Market in New York. He also has Jean Georges in Shanghai. I love that as well. I think it’s the ambiance, the food, and everything.

What’s something that people don’t know about you? Well, I am a nice guy. I have a big heart. Most people think I’m crazy because I’m so passionate about my job. I know I scream sometimes, but I don’t bite. People will see my tattoos and think I’m a bad boy, but I’m a nice guy.

What’s on your radar right now? I’m trying to learn how to meditate. When I’m too upset about something and I need to calm down, I need to meditate. I’ll try to do a little more exercise like yoga or Pilates too. I need to take care of myself a little more.

What do you have in the horizon for 2009? They say it is my year. I am an Aries, and it’s the year of the Aries. I’m ready to take control of this year and see what the it is going to give me.

Let’s say I’m going to Lavo for dinner tonight; what should I order? I think you should have the pizza. It’s homemade dough with lobster, onions, truffle oil, and potato. I’m very proud of my pizza dough too. Pizza dough is all about the water, and in Las Vegas, the water is so bad. So I add minerals and create my own water, but it’s a secret. You should also get the sea bass and finish with the bread pudding. It’s sautéed like French toast.

What is your guiltiest pleasure? In-N-Out Burger. The Double Double.

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