If you're one of the many who scorned OpenTable (or maybe just your slow connection?) last week for not letting you snag one of the coveted spots at LudoBites 007, take heart. There's a smidge of a consolation prize we can all enjoy in the form of Ludo Bites America, which premiered on the Sundance channel last night. (The show will air every Tuesday night at 9 through August 30th.)
The reality show follows chef Ludo Lefebvre and his wife Krissy as they trek across small town America, turning their formerly stationary pop-up restaurant into a traveling road show.
Somewhere in their melee of promoting the show and locking down 007 reservations, we exchanged a few emails with the pair to find out how filming this show was different from others they've done, as well as what they ate on the road, and how the trip made them think differently about this vast country of ours.
Squid Ink: What was the most interesting or surprising thing you experienced on your road trip that changed your perception of America?
Ludo Lefebvre: I was really surprised what great and different foods I discovered. I didn't expect that America has such a deep food culture, because growing up in France I always heard differently.
SI: What did you eat while on the road? Lots of drive-thru stuff, or did you have the opportunity to sample the local flavors of the cities you went to? What was the single best thing you ate on the road (that you didn't make yourself)?
LL: We ate so many different things. In Mobile lots of seafood; in Denver we ate buffalo and wild game, plus we got to eat at Black Cat in Boulder (chef Eric Skokan is amazing); in Santa Fe it was all about the chile and my stomach burned every night. Omaha was interesting because we thought we eat a bunch of steak, but instead we had soul food and Italian. In Raleigh it was about the hog and the BBQ, and in Redondo we ate a lot of Mexican food. If I had to pick one item I would say the green chile burger from Bob Cat Bites in Santa Fe. It is definitely a close call with the North Carolina BBQ.
SI: Ludo, how did you manage creating an appealing menu for a small town palate, which one would assume would be less adventurous. (Though, we could be dead wrong on that. Are we?) What did you do with the menu in other parts of the country that you haven't done here in L.A.?
LL: I don't know if I'd say it was a small town palate. Some of the places just did not have a lot of variety for the people who live there. I tried to take into consideration that some of my techniques and combinations may be out of the ordinary for some areas, but I also wanted to make sure I gave everyone a unique dining experience. I was impressed with how adventurous most people were. They were grateful and thankful for the unique experience. I don't think I did anything different than I would do in L.A. — it was all based on the ingredients I had available. Maybe if I had a little more time and some more experienced help with me, I could have pushed the envelope even further, but I'm happy with the menus I produced.
SI: You're both familiar with being on camera via Top Chef Masters and The Apprentice, but of course this show isn't a competition, it's about your lives, your marriage and this work that you each pour your blood, sweat and tears into. How is it different filming a show that's so much more personal?
Ludo Lefebvre & Krissy Lefebvre: The show is definitely more personal than either The Apprentice or Top Chef Masters, but just like we do in our daily life, we separate business from our personal life. It can be a bit more difficult with cameras around all the time, but it is very important to us that this show be about LudoBites the restaurant. There are some fun personal moments when we're not working (like cowboy boot shopping), but for the most part business is business and we keep our marriage out of the restaurant. Except for the fact that we know we always have each others' backs and completely trust each other.
SI: Was it preferable to you to be on the Sundance channel as opposed to, say, a major network? Do you revel in staying off the beaten track? Is there anything that would make you wake up one day and say, “Let's settle down and open a restaurant?”
LL & KL: Sundance is all about “independent” everything, so it made perfect sense for us. We talked to a number of other networks and we were not comfortable what we'd be allowed to really execute LudoBites restaurants. Other networks wanted it to be about our relationship first and restaurant second. We also don't consider Sundance off the beaten track. They're an amazing brand. We just felt like they were a good fit. Will we ever settle down?? Who knows. Maybe that answer will be dictated by the twins and when they start school, but for now, we like our life just the way it is.