If Pebble Beach Food & Wine has a reputation for opulence, then its dark underbelly might be a comedy of errors between two well-regarded chefs.
At a demo hosted by Lexus on Saturday morning at The Inn at Spanish Bay, Daniel Boulud of New York’s two-Michelin-starred Daniel (among many others) and Ludo Lefebvre of L.A.’s Trois Mec and Ludo Bird made a shakshouka and an omelet — but mostly, they made the audience howl with laughter. Between their minor mishaps and their slightly outrageous pronouncements, it was an exercise in silliness between two people who deserve their own road show. (Later, Lefebvre admitted that they’ve done something like this together about “20 times.”)
It was a combination demo and tasting, with pre-poured Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée Brut Reserve and an array of smoked salmon pieces dusted with various seasonings. So the audience got to eat along while the chefs playfully dinged one another.
Comparing their forearms — one bare, one heavily inked — under the overheard camera on a stage kitchen that could have been any TV-cooking show’s set, Boulud remarked about the “difference in generations.” But it turns out the duo have not only done this before, they’ve known one another for a very long time.
“You don’t know the pressure for me to cook next to him,” Lefebvre said, only half-seriously. “I applied for a job 20 years ago.”
In theory, it takes only three minutes to make an omelet, allowing each chef to sip sparkling rosé at leisure, but there was much more to it. Using a “zapper” — he was unable to furnish the term “immersion blender” — Boulud made a Peekytoe crab “Savarin,” essentially a brunch-y egg custard, into which a shakshouka, or Moroccan tomato stew, was to go. (It was quite the flavor bomb, too, made with harissa, coriander, smoked paprika, and a particular chile from Turkey that’s ground during the day and allowed to rehumidify overnight.)
“When the French try to cook not-French, it gets a little sauvage,” he said.
Emphasizing the importance of cooking an omelet in any young chef’s apprenticeship, Lefebvre insisted that the only way to prepare one properly is to use four farm eggs in a nine-inch non-stick pan, whisking the yolks and whites together over gentle heat so that it doesn’t sizzle, then folding it on itself with a spatula to ensure it cooks evenly. It’s not about using a lot of butter, he said, even though most home cooks believe that to be so — and anyway, he claims the Italians use more butter than the French. Somehow, it came out that Boulud had no idea what Velveeta is, and he was convinced it was the American equivalent of Boursin, which it is not. That revelation overshadowed another one: We never found out exactly why, two decades before, the elder chef declined to hire the younger one. The pecking order re-asserted itself when Boulud assumed control of the pan.
“Chef is going to re-form my omelet for me,” Lefebvre said with fake distress.
“We are charging 27 bucks for it,” Boulud replied.