Ludo Lefebvre is a familiar name and face in the culinary world. The French chef, who moved to Los Angeles in 1996, is known for his pop-ups, television appearances and omelets — specifically the custardy, perfectly yellow-hued French-style omelet he serves at Petit Trois
, his bistro in Los Angeles.
And now Lefebvre is bringing his omelets and much more to Denver with the winter 2021 opening of Chez Maggy, a French brasserie inside the also soon-to-open Thompson Hotel at 1616 Market Street, which is owned by Hyatt.
A celebrity chef opening a hotel eatery is sometimes cause for concern. Is Lefebrve just stamping his name on a place designed to draw in tourists that will be devoid of any real soul?
The short answer: no. Lefebvre's decision to choose Denver as the location for his first restaurant outside of Los Angeles is personal. His wife, Krissy, is from Denver, and the name Chez Maggy is an homage to Krissy's stepmom, who was killed by a drunk driver in 2019. "I love the culture of Denver," Lefebrve says, "and I'm excited to bring French flair 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 spot, but also to dine at the "many great restaurants" already in Denver.
Not many of them are French, though: The Mile High City is definitely short on French eateries. Frank Bonanno's French 75 remains closed, Morin is being transformed into steakhouse A5
, and the 2015 loss of the notably affordable
Le Central still hurts — though Bistro Vendôme
remains a go-to for classic dishes like mussels and steak frites.
"I'm going to try to bring something a little different to Denver," Lefebvre explains, with an emphasis on "try," then adds, "but I'm not here to reinvent food in the city." Instead, the chef hopes to bring a taste of his favorite French brasseries to town, and to make Chez Maggy a destination for locals despite the eatery's location inside a hotel.
"I'm excited to focus just on the food and the staff in the kitchen," he explains of the hotel partnership, two years in the making. On the day we spoke, Lefebvre had been dealing with a broken pipe at one of his L.A. restaurants, and that's exactly the kind of issue he's looking forward to leaving to hotel management at Chez Maggy.
Ludo Lefebvre's burger is high on our must-try list.
When Lefebvre came on board at the hotel project, much of the restaurant design was already complete, but he was able to introduce a few changes, adding personal touches to make it "more French" he says. From the silverware to the plates that, as at Petit Trois, will bear the restaurant's name, Lefebvre is invested in every detail.
That includes the team that will be running Chez Maggy day to day, led by executive chef Chase Wilbanks. "We haven't cooked together yet, so we haven't fought yet," Lefebvre says with a laugh. "But it was very important to me to find someone from Denver. He cooked for me — I am 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 September 9-11, and Wilbanks will also spend time staging at Lefebvre's L.A. restaurants before Chez Maggy's opening.
The restaurant will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and Lefebvre is also taking on the task of crafting bar snacks and options for room service — a first for the chef. "I'm even excited for that," he says. Highlights of the menu will include a version of beef bourguignon made with bison (another ingredient Lefebvre says he is "obsessed with"); a variety of steak frites available with different cuts of meat and different sauces; locally grown vegetables — Wilbanks has been visiting farms to find just the right vendors; pastries like croissants made with "lots of French butter" for breakfast; and a "kickass burger," with Comté cheese that will be so juicy and saucy, you'll "have to eat it with a fork and knife," Lefebvre says.
And the omelet — or rather, a Denver omelet. While we usually skip this boring dish of non-native ingredients altogether
, LeFebvre has not only embraced it, but touts the Denver omelet as one of the future highlights at Chez Maggy.
"I'm known for my omelet at Petit Trois," he says. "This will be the same. The eggs are cooked soft, with a custardy texture." But instead of then tossing in diced and barely cooked bell pepper and onion, Lefebvre will gently and slowly cook the vegetables down before adding them, along with ham and a creamy Boursin cheese, inside the omelet. His description has us hungry to try one.
"I love cooking, and cooking for people," Lefebvre concludes. "That's what it's all about."