Strolling through a Parisian alley, as a formative childhood meal, eaten quickly as a hurried bite after service in one of his first kitchen jobs: Before Ludo Lefebvre wrote cookbooks, earned Michelin stars, judged cooking shows and flipped L.A.’s fine dining scene on its head with Trois Mec, the French chef ate kebabs.
Popularized throughout Paris’s alcoves and cobblestone streets decades ago, the centuries-old Middle Eastern dish of kebab slices slow-roasted meat and uses it to fill pita with salad and sauces to the brim. While Los Angeles is no stranger to kebab, Lefebvre is bringing a distinctly and uniquely French ode to the city, combining the kebab’s roots with his own upbringing—giving Angelenos a taste of his childhood and a new, pandemic-minded concept from the staff (and the kitchen) of his now-closed Trois Mec.
“I grew up in Paris and I grew up eating kebab,” he says. “For me, kebab is something I ate a lot when I was a kid and a teenager, and when I was working in the fancy restaurants. I would eat a lot, a lot of kebab after work and on my day off—it’s really close to my heart.”
It’s a dish so close to the celebrity chef’s heart, in fact, that for the last four years he’d been quietly hoping to launch a kebab concept. In 2020 as the pandemic crippled the restaurant industry—and especially fine dining—Lefebvre found a sliver of silver lining in the closure of Trois Mec: It afforded the opportunity for Ludobab, a casual takeout- and delivery-only pop-up where French flavor and classic technique weave their way into wood-grilled skewers of lamb, beef, chicken and a bevy of vegetables.
From Wednesday to Sunday each week the former Trois Mec grill fires up, fueled by almond wood, to char tender meats that’ve been marinating for two to three days. French classics wind up in skewer form, be it a ratatouille-inspired stack of zucchini, peppers, mushroom and beyond; the chicken with dijon, herbes de Provençe, bell pepper and onion; the steak au poivre rendition with peppery sirloin steak with mushroom and onion; or the lamb marinated in vadouvan curry, a labor-intensive ingredient that sees Lefebvre drying and mixing his own vadouvan spice blend.
“That’s the problem with French cooking,” he laughs, “It’s a lot of work—it’s a lot of foo-foo.”
There are sides as well, and some involve just as much time on the grill: eggplant fries served alongside a tangy white dipping sauce; coal-grilled yams under tahini butter; and garlicky grilled mushrooms. There is fluffy pita, a perhaps even-fluffier rice pilaf, and a vinegar-tossed cucumber-and-tomato salad. There’s hummus as smooth and flawless as any—a feat, given L.A.’s wealth of spectacular and established hummus options—and there’s even a combo plate that ties many of the Ludobab hits together for $17.50.
Fine dining will come back, but now it’s just very difficult. It’s not easy to put beautiful food to-go in the box.
Ludobab was so slammed in its first few days that the team had to hit pause the following week, and should it remain popular, the pop-up could be here to stay.
“We try to survive,” the chef says. “Our plan now is to do this until the concept is very busy. If not, I will do something else, you know? That’s it. We live day by day now. With the pandemic, with the new situation, with the restaurant—I just tried to figure out what to do with my space and decided to do some takeout, but a different kind of food. Not fancy food, [not] Michelin-starred food: something more accessible, healthy and fun.”
Lately Lefebvre’s been playing around with specials and less-French items; this week, a sesame miso chicken thigh skewer hits the menu. Since its September launch, fans also figured out a better system for ordering and waiting than standing around in the alley: Car waiting and picnics in the parking lot are common, and even more so is the dual-concept move of placing an order at Ludobab, then enjoying a glass of wine on the Petit Trois patio next door while it’s prepared.
The chef has loved seeing the new usage of his restaurants’ parking lot, but felt it would never be a fitting home for Trois Mec. It’s been nowhere near ideal for Lefebvre to close his Michelin-starred restaurant, but he says he has hope for the return of fine dining, whenever it happens—and urges chefs to find all their happiness anywhere they can.
“Fine dining will come back, but now it’s just very difficult. It’s not easy to put beautiful food to-go in the box,” Lefebvre says. “Some restaurants are doing that now, some restaurants are doing a great job with that, but it’s challenging. Fine dining doesn’t travel that well; you have to be very creative with the picnic and the execution. I’m sure it will come back—but this pandemic situation will I’m sure be here for a year. We just need to be creative and try to survive, and not crying, and be positive. Try to do fun things. Try to be happy, you know? And I’m very happy with the kebab concept.”
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