The QB Killa has a sophisticated palate.
But don't take my word for it. That analysis of Warren Sapp's taste buds comes from Ludovic Lefebvre, regarded as one of the best chefs in Los Angeles -- if not the world. Chef Ludo, as he's known, has cooked for a number of high profile former and current athletes recently, but the seven-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle really stands out.
"The first time I cooked for him he ate this fancy tomato salad with mozzarella ice cream and he loved it," Chef Ludo says. "He ordered two or three. He's very open. I was very surprised."
If you couldn't tell by the description, Lefebvre is cooking on a whole different level than most chefs. Born and trained in France, he moved to L.A. in 1996 and quickly made a name for himself working in some of the best kitchens in the city. But instead of opening his own brick and mortar restaurant, Chef Ludo revolutionized the dining scene in the fall of 2007 by creating a "pop-up" dining experience. LudoBites opens in a different location with a completely new menu, serves for a month or so, then shuts down and moves on.
And getting a reservation is a bit like trying to get Green Bay Packers season tickets. There is a lottery system that accepts requests for 24 hours only, then assigns all the tables for the entire run at random.
The lucky few get in, all others hold out for one of a half dozen walk-up seats or are left simply hoping for next time.
MMAer Josh Barnett is a big fan of Chef Ludo and had been trying for a while to get a reservation for LudoBites before finally getting a table this week. He told Lefebvre that he wanted to "train his palate."
Of course, like any great restaurant, there are exceptions to the reservation rule. Three-time Olympian in beach volleyball, Holly McPeak, stops by often. And then there's Sapp. The former NFLer and chef met two years ago in Washington, D.C. and have built a friendship over food. And for Lefebvre, who was nominated by the James Beard Foundation for a Rising Star Chef Award (think of it as the Heisman for up and coming chefs), the highest praise might come from his biggest fan.
"Warren loves my fried chicken," Chef Ludo says. "I make like two whole fried chickens for him at a time. He says, 'There are two people in the world cooking chicken for me, my mom and you.'"
Thankfully, anyone who wants to taste the delectable bird themselves doesn't need to pray for a reservation. Lefebvre operates the LudoTruck, which bounces around Southern California serving a small menu including his prized fried chicken.
The only other way to sink your teeth into it is to hire Chef Ludo to cater a private party, which is exactly what Chris Paul did last month. The Clippers point guard tapped Lefebvre to cook a dinner for family and friends for the release of his new shoe from Nike. The only catch was Paul wanted the French chef to create a menu of what he grew up on.
"Luckily I was in North Carolina last year, so I learned to make North Carolina style barbecue," Lefebvre says. "Chris and his family loved it. They were worried they'd never get good food like that again out here."
The barbecue and fried chicken were such a hit that Paul has already asked the chef to come cook for him again. The only problem is time. Chef Ludo hasn't even gotten a chance to go see a Clippers game in person this season. Between his pop-up dining experiences, the food truck, TV appearances like this season's spot on Travel Channel's "The Layover" with Anthony Bourdain, and myriad other projects, Chef Ludo is in constant motion.
That doesn't mean that his dance card is completely full though. As an avid soccer fan, there is one famous athlete he would be happy to make time for.
"I would love to cook for David Beckham," Lefebvre admits. "I've never cooked for him."
You hear that, Becks? That is not an invitation you turn down.
Don't make him send Warren Sapp.
Follow Adam Watson on Twitter @adamkwatson.
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