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Crave: The Feast of the Five Senses - Cookbook Review

by Ludovic Lefebvre

Crave: The Feast of the Five Senses by Ludovic Lefebvre

Lefebvre was taught "to love cooking and to cook with love" by mentors Pierre Gagnaire, Alain Passard, Marc Meneau, Guy Martin and Jean-Pierre Saulnier. If this sounds romantic, be sure to read the intro about the psychological terror he went through in the kitchens of Meneau, where a hush descended over the pots and pans whenever the master passed by — not even to mention Meneau's "neurotic obsession with perfection." He was well-trained there. Gagnaire called him a bum and drove him hard, but the lessons were invaluable. During his time with Passard he loved the cooking, but he also had nightmares about the color of John Dory bones. After three years he was skin and bones from the stress, but also an accomplished artisan.

In 1996, L'Orangerie brought him to the City of Angels. He was just 24. After five months they promoted him to head chef. Diners were impressed. Cut to more recent times: Ludo had dreamed of opening his own eponymous spot after he left L'Orangerie in 2002, but decided against it when he heard he'd be cooking for an exorbitant number of mouths. He found the offer to move to Bastide more accessible.

Humble but proud, he wants people to remember his food. With this book, Crave: The Feast of the Five Senses, he asks us home cooks to see, touch, smell, hear and taste our food. He acknowledges it takes time and concentration. He's not one to do 30-minute, three-step meals.

We have big plans for his foie gras, still undecided between the seared version with pineapple, dried mint and rose petals; or grilled with roasted pears and spice syrup with Sauternes; or in a reduction of chocolate, red wine and pomegranate with onion jam and juniper berries. We also have our eye on eggs sunny side up on toast with porcini mushroom coulis and truffle sauce — so simple and elegant, with the yolk peeking out in a playful way.

The recipes' instructions are clear and there's a good balance of very doable ones like simple young garlic soup with thyme and scallops (this dish becomes a high-karat job with the addition of gold leaf — if you can find it) or more extravagant affairs like sea urchin crème brûlée or a five-pound duck, dusted with grand caravan spices with caramelized spiced pears and baby root vegetables.

This jubilant, sexy book celebrates all good things, and we expect Ludo's star to continue to shine brightly here and beyond this topsy-turvy town we call home.

Reviewed by Sylvie Greil

Buy Crave: The Feast of the Five Senses on Amazon


LudoBites: Recipes and Stories from the Pop-Up Restaurants of Ludo Lefebvre

LudoBites tells the story of the chef's epically popular pop-up ventures. If you didn't have a chance to partake in his adventures while they lasted, here's the scoop with revolutionary recipes.

Buy LudoBites: Recipes and Stories from the Pop-Up Restaurants of Ludo Lefebvre on Amazon

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