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Ludo Bites – lost and found in translation

Careful, there’s foie gras in those cupcakes!

Watch LUDO BITES AMERICA every Tuesday at 9P

More savory wit from our featured food blogger Diana Hossfeld, who writes the food blog Diana Takes a Bite.

The first time I ate foie gras was two years ago at Ludo Bites in Los Angeles. I hated it. The muddy-colored lobe had been chopped into thumb-sized chunks and surreptitiously slipped into a miso soup with rhubarb, hibiscus and beets. I didn’t understand it – I didn’t want to understand it. I just wanted it to go away. And I wanted to replace it with things I was used to ingesting in my miso soup – tofu, seaweed, shiitake mushrooms – not foie gras.

The next time I had foie gras – incidentally, just one week later and again at Ludo Bites – I had a completely different experience. Not only because I tried it in a different context (served cold in a sweet maple-crusted tart with lemon paste, raw button mushrooms, and spices), but also because my mind was far more open to trying something outside my comfort zone. Rather than tossing my nose in the air and declaring that I don’t eat liver tarts, I let go of my preconceived notions of what should and shouldn’t go with a maple crust.

And I loved it. I finished every speck, and two years later I’m still thinking about how much I enjoyed it.

It was a pivotal moment for me. Growing up, I was an impossibly picky child. I didn’t like cheese, I didn’t like eggs, I ate my cereal dry, without milk, and I refused to go anywhere near a piece of meat that wasn’t charred black or petrified into jerky. My mom would have to strain the onions out of sauces for me, make me mac ‘n cheese without the cheese, and prepare alternative carbohydrates when I went through my anti-rice phase. Even in high school my friends used to tease me about my limited diet, joking that I would starve if I didn’t have ready access to saltine crackers (an essential part of my existence at the time).

While my palate expanded significantly in subsequent years, it wasn’t until I experienced Chef Ludo Lefebvre’s avant garde cuisine that I truly began to eat outside the box. He challenged me to think about and relate to food in a completely different way: to take chances with tarts topped with foie gras, to pop escargot in my mouth like candy and to think nothing of eating a sweetbread disguised as a chicken nugget.

Chef Ludo’s dishes aren’t familiar. He takes flavors and cuisines that no one would ever imagine pairing together and makes music with them. French and Mexican. Ceviche colored with cucumber water. Brandade brandished in a taco. Guacamole sorbet. And foie gras tucked into a quesadilla.

Controversial, yes. Challenging, without a doubt, but always, always interesting. Ludo’s passion and culinary aesthetic fits into every context, regardless of the restaurant, city or cuisines he’s fusing. The diners at the table just need to be open to experiencing it – one (Ludo) bite at a time.

Ludo’s foie gras quesadilla, ravioli, croque monsieur and cupcake

Hungry for more? Tune in for a cross-country road trip with celebrity Chef Ludo Lefebvre as he reinvents American cuisine. LUDO BITES AMERICA airs Tuesdays at 9p on Sundance Channel.

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