Chef Ludo Lefebvre’s Butter-Filed, French Brasserie touches down in Denver!
Colorado foodies have been able to pick from a wide variety of dining choices for the past two decades. Denver and Boulder in particular have earned reputations as “ground zero” for exquisite fine dining destinations, with restaurants like Frasca Food and Wine, Atelier by Radex, Fruition, Guard and Grace, Rioja and Mizuna, and Il Posto. Sadly, the global pandemic has mortally wounded several community favorites. One of my wife and I’s mainstays was Brasserie Ten Ten in Boulder, which shuttered its doors during the early days of the pandemic lockdowns. Its siblings, The Med and La Perla, suffered the same fate.
Fortunately, 2022 is looking like it is going to be excitingly delicious! We owe our thanks to outstanding medical professionals and vaccines for steering the ship in the right direction and creating a safer environment for restaurants to open and patrons to visit them. We also must thank restauranters, like Chef Ludo Lefebvre, for having the strength, courage, and faith to open new restaurants during these difficult times.
Chez Maggy, a traditional French brasserie created by Chef Ludo, is located in the newly opened, upscale, 216-room Thompson Hotel Denver. Ludo lovingly named the restaurant after his wife’s late mother, Margaret. Ludo’s wife, Krissy, grew up in Denver, and he and his family consider the Mile High City their “second home” outside of Los Angeles.
Chef Ludo Lefebvre is a James Beard Award finalist and Michelin-starred chef. He was born in Burgundy and has worked for some of France’s top culinarians, including Alain Passard, Marc Meneau, Pierre Gagnaire, and Guy Martin. After paying his dues, Chef Ludo first branched out with the launch of “LudoBites,” a multi-city restaurant tour credited for igniting the pop-up restaurant craze. He has definitely earned his title as the “Pop-Up King”.
Lefebvre planted his roots in Los Angeles, creating several culinary hotspots, including Tris Mec, a 28-seat restaurant, followed by his “bar a la carte” concept, Petit Trois, in 2014. Creating two of Los Angeles’s most sought-after dining destinations has led to prestige, fame, and a Michelin star. He has also appeared on numerous food shows, like the PBS series The Mind of a Chef, which was narrated by the late, great Anthony Bourdain. I highly recommend watching the show. Its unique approach takes viewers inside the creative minds of some of the world’s greatest chefs and Anthony Bourdain’s commentary adds humor and depth.
Chef Ludo has also created LudoBird, his take on French-inspired fried chicken sandwiches. The sandwiches are sauced with Bearnaise or a selection of pepper-inspired options. LudoBird is located in the Staples Center and serves the masses during sporting and music events.
Check out Chef Ludo making a LudoBird sandwich on The Mind of a Chef:
While I have yet to have met Chef Ludo in the flesh, he has graciously hosted Darcy and I at Chez Maggy. I was able to work with Chef Ludo’s PR firm and sent a list of questions via email. You can read the e-interview at the end of this story.
When we arrived at the Thompson Hotel, we valeted our car and entered an enormous lobby. To our right was an immense bar, crowded with business types that were most likely hotel guests entertaining clients. Traveling further into the lobby, you come upon Chez Maggy. The restaurant space is long and narrow, appointed with elegant art and unique pieces that hold special meaning to Chef Ludo. We passed Denver’s 31-year foodie radio veteran, Pat Miller, also known as “The Gabby Gourmet,” on our way to our table. Seeing her there made us even more excited for our meal.
Our host sat us down in the back of the restaurant, where we could taste a sampling of dishes and take photographs without disturbing the other guests. Corporate managers and a local marketing manager stopped by to welcome us.
We were handed a large, colorful 11″ x17″ menu printed on cardstock. The first page illustrated Chef Ludo clad in a chef’s coat with cowboy boots and hat, kneeling next to a dog and a giant, plated, cowboy-cut steak. My first thought was that this massive use of paper for the menu might be illegal if the restaurant was based in Boulder (for it breaks eco-friendly practices). However, I was elated that I did not have to struggle with a QR code on my iPhone!
We ordered cocktails first.
Darcy ordered a Negroni for $15, which featured Sipsmith Gin, Campari, and Volume Primo Vermouth. I decided to order the restaurant’s signature Yellow cocktail for $15. The cocktail was superb with great flavor. It featured Beefeater Gin, Suze, Yellow Chartreuse, lemon, and thyme.
The menu was chock-full of delectable items, making it challenging to choose what we wanted to taste first. Darcy asked our waiter to bring us two glasses of Provence Rosé and ordered our first five items.
Belgian Endive Salad $15
Apple, Horseradish, Marcona Almond, Stilton Cheese, Breadcrumbs
Notes: Very fresh, bold with a remarkable texture
Bison Tartare $23
Cured Egg Yolk, Cornichon, Potato Chips
Notes: Spicy paprika, house-made potato chips, lovely garlic oil
Pâté Campagne $17
Cornichon, Pistachio, Country Toast
Notes: A true classic
Garlic, Butter, Parsley, Piment d’Espelette
Notes: Traditional garlic butter taste with a mild Basque pepper finish
Onion Soup Gratinée $ 17
Veal broth, Crouton, Gruyere
Notes: A quick flight to Paris, gorgeous cheese finish
8oz Tenderloin Filet $49
Sauce Aux Poivres
Notes: Darcy ordered this very rare, Chez Maggy did not disappoint!
Cooked perfectly, lovely, velvety peppercorn sauce
Mussels Frites $26
Vadouvan Curry, Shallot, White Wine Broth, Crème Fraiche
Notes: Savory with a slight heat and ripe flavors
Duck Breast a l’orange $37
Turnip, Foie Gras, Sorrel
Notes: Duck seared rare, lovely sauce with Foie Gras
The selection was impressive. We choose these classics:
Vanilla Napoleon $12
Puff Pastry, Diplomat Crème
Notes: Multi-stories piled high with luscious buttery cream
Crepes Suzette $13
Grand Marnier, Orange, Butter
Notes: Tangy citrus flavors
Chez Maggy’s wine list is surprisingly not solely comprised of French labels. The list also includes bottles from Italy, Spain, California, and Washington. I also noticed that the wine list is filled with a decent number of value-priced wines, averaging $55 to $79.
Chez Maggy is a keeper. It serves delicious, authentic, fine French cuisine. The prices are not cheap, and it seems like more restaurants nowadays are passing the higher costs for ingredients onto their customers. However, the true value is the quality of the food, and Chez Maggy does not disappoint.
Run, don’t walk. It’s time to visit Denver’s best French restaurant!
Thompson Hotel Denver
1616 Market Street
Denver, Colorado 80202
Tel 720 794-9544
Interview with Chef Ludo Lefebvre
Wine Country International® Magazine Publisher and Editorial Director, Christopher J. Davies presented the following questions to Chef Ludo via his publicist. Here is the full interview.
Several culinary greats, like Chef Charlie Palmer and American restauranteur Jeffrey Chodorow, have set up stakes in Denver, declaring failure in less than one year after not generating satisfactory business results. Considering how difficult the restaurant industry has become since the pandemic, how are things going for Chez Maggy?
A: Chef Ludo
Denver is the hometown of my wife, and we really feel like it is our second home. Chez Maggy is extremely personal to us as a family, and we work every day to ensure our guests understand that I am not just an out-of-town chef in the Mile High City. Things are going well so far. I am really proud and thankful for the effort of the team on the ground. I spend a week there every month in the kitchen and working on a connection with the local community.
What are some of your favorite ingredients that are unique in Colorado?
A: Chef Ludo
Since 2011, when Krissy & I did our pop-up “LudoBites” at Biker Jim’s in Denver, I have become obsessed with bison. I even got a new tattoo a couple of weeks ago. Back in 2011, I went out and hunted the animal. The LudoBites menu was a complete bison menu using the whole animal. I did not like shooting the animal, but I do enjoy working with the meat. On the menu to date, I have done a bison tartare and bison bourguignon, small twists on the very French classics. Colorado lamb is also one of the best lambs in the world. I will be adding some new dishes for summer using it.
I know you have a connection to Colorado through your wife and her late mother. Have you sampled the Colorado restaurant scene before opening Chez Maggy? Do you have any favorite restaurants in Colorado?
A: Chef Ludo
Prior to opening Chez Maggy, we spent most of our time with family at home, but we were able to enjoy some meals out. We had a big family Christmas dinner at Frasca in Boulder one year. I became a bit of a sporadic regular at Sushi Den and found a delicious Thai restaurant downtown, Aloy Modern Thai. Lately, I have been really enjoying Hop Alley and Tavernetta.
Your menu at Chez Maggy has some excellent brasserie dishes. Are you planning to change the menu seasonally?
A: Chef Ludo
Absolutely! The classics will always stay (subject to seasonality), but I love to add new dishes and do specials. Being trained in France, menus always changed seasonally – they must. Not only is it important for the freshness of the dish, but it is my job to teach the chefs that come to work with me. I like to inspire and challenge them with new dishes and give them opportunities to present new dishes to me.
I know that you might view Colorado as a land-locked state. Are you considering adding more seafood to the menu in the future?
A: Chef Ludo
Land-locked doesn’t mean you can’t get great seafood, it is about finding great ingredients, that is the job of a chef, to hunt for the best ingredients possible. We will be adding a sole meuniere very soon and have recently added a bass dish with zucchini, goat cheese, and basil oil.
I have seen some intriguing episodes on “The Mind of a Chef” with you. The late, great Anthony Bourdain narrated the show. What was your impression of Mr. Bourdain? What do you miss about him?
A: Chef Ludo
Tony was a brilliant man. I had the pleasure of working with him many times. In addition to The Mind of a Chef, No Reservations, and The Layover, we did three seasons of The Taste together, plus one season in London. We had many great times. I miss what everyone misses, his insights, his intelligence, his view of the world. On a personal level, I miss the meals we shared together and the conversations that come from them. I do wonder what he would have to say about the state of our current world.
I have not had the pleasure of tasting your take on fast food. Your LudoBird concept looks mouthwatering. Do you have any plans to open a LudoBird in Colorado?
A: Chef Ludo
I would love to open LudoBird in Denver. I have not officially started exploring the opportunity, but never say never.
Since you are a native of Burgundy, do you have any plans for hosting Burgundy-themed wine dinners in the future?
A: Chef Ludo
Funny you ask. I have a couple of friends that are master sommeliers, and we were just discussing doing exactly this. We will definitely keep you posted!