Ludo Lefebvre is a well-known name and face in the culinary world. The French chef, who moved to Los Angeles in 1996, is known for his pop-ups, TV appearances and omelette-specifically the vanilla, perfectly yellow-skinned French-style omelette he serves to Little tree, his bistro in Los Angeles.
And now Lefebvre is bringing its omelettes and more to Denver with the opening of the winter of 2021 by Chez Maggy, a French brasserie inside the also soon-to-open Thompson Hotel at 1616 Market Street, owned by Hyatt.
A celebrity chef opening a diner is sometimes cause for concern. Does Lefebrve just stamp his name on a place designed to attract tourists who will be devoid of any true soul?
The short answer: no. Lefebvre’s decision to choose Denver as the location for its first restaurant outside of Los Angeles is personal. His wife, Krissy, is from Denver, and the name Chez Maggy is a tribute to Krissy’s stepmother, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2019. “I love the culture of Denver,” says Lefebrve, “and I look forward to bringing French. style to the city. I’m a little familiar with Denver, but not too familiar, so I’m excited to get to know it better. “The chef plans to be in town at least monthly and is not only excited to open his place, but also to eat at the “many good restaurants” already in Denver.
Not many of them, however, are French; the Mile High City is definitely lacking in French eateries. Frank Bonano’s French 75 remains closed, Morin is transformed into the steakhouse A5 and the loss in 2015 of the highly affordable Le Central still hurts – though Bistro Vendôme is still a go-to for classic dishes like mussels and steak fries.
“I will try to bring something a little different to Denver,” Lefebvre explains, emphasizing “try,” then adds, “but I’m not here to reinvent food in the city.” Instead, the chef hopes to get a taste of his favorite French brasseries to the city and make Chez Maggy a destination for the locals despite the eatery’s location inside a hotel.
“I’m excited to just focus on the food and the staff in the kitchen,” he explains of the hotel partnership, two years in the making. The day we spoke, Lefebvre had been dealing with a broken pipe at one of his restaurants in LA, and that’s exactly the kind of question he’s looking forward to leaving to the hotel management in Chez Maggy.
When Lefebvre got on board the hotel project, much of the restaurant design was already done, but he was able to make a few changes and added personal details to make it “more French,” he says. From the silverware to the plates that, like Petit Trois, will bear the restaurant’s name, Lefebvre is invested in every detail.
That includes the team that will run Chez Maggy day by day, led by head chef Chase Wilbanks. “We have not cooked together yet, so we have not fought yet,” says Lefebvre with a laugh. “But it was very important for me to find someone from Denver. He cooked for me – I’m obsessed with escargot, and he made me very, very good escargot.” The two chefs will cook together for the first time at Aspen Food & Wine, which takes place 9-11. September, and Wilbanks will also spend time staging at Lefebvre’s LA restaurants before the opening of Chez Maggy’s.
The restaurant will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and Lefebvre will also take on the task of making bar snacks and room service options – a first for the chef. “I’m excited about it myself,” he says. Highlights of the menu will include a version of beef burgundy made with bison (another ingredient Lefebvre says he is “obsessed with”); a variety of steak fritters available with different pieces of meat and different sauces; locally grown vegetables – Wilbanks has visited farms to find the right suppliers; cakes like croissants made with “lots of French butter” for breakfast; and a “kickass burger” with comte cheese that gets so juicy and juicy you’ll have to eat it with a fork and knife, ‘says Lefebvre.
And the omelette – or rather a Denver omelette. While we usually skip this boring dish of non-native ingredients altogether, LeFebvre has not only embraced it, but highlights the Denver omelet as one of the future highlights at Chez Maggy.
“I’m known for my omelet on Petit Trois,” he says. “This will be the same. The eggs are boiled soft, with a vanilla foam.” But instead of then tossing in chopped and almost uncooked peppers and onions, Lefebvre will gently and slowly boil the vegetables down before adding them along with ham and a creamy Boursin cheese inside the omelette. His description makes us try one.
“I love cooking and cooking for people,” Lefebvre concludes. “That’s what it’s all about.”
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