March 16, 2015 12:00 PM

LUDO LEFEBVRE and HIS FAMILY at PETIT TROIS in LOS ANGELES

When Ludo Lefebvre opened his French bistro Petit Trois in July, he had one vision in mind. “I wanted to create a memory from France, where you sit together and literally touch your neighbor,” says Le-febvre, 43, who grew up in Burgundy and moved to America in 1996. “Because that’s the way we eat in France.” Mission accomplished. The chef – who stars on ABC’s cooking competition show The Taste – converted a Thai restaurant, located next door to his popular restaurant Trois Mec, into a Parisian sanctuary in bustling Los Angeles. “Everybody tells me when they come to Petit Trois they feel like they’re in Paris,” he says.

Now, seven months after opening, Lefebvre’s tiny, 22-seat café has become one of the hottest spots in town, attracting an A-list clientele including Justin Timberlake and Drew Barrymore. Though with a no-reservation policy, the chef– who recently released the 10th-anniversary edition of his cookbook Crave – insists all his customers, including the celebrities, are treated the same. “It’s not like a perfect froufrou French place. We don’t do any favors, so you wait, that’s it,” he says. “They are like everybody else.” Those rules also apply to his manager and wife, Krissy, and 3½-year-old twins, son Luca and daughter Rêve, who have often waited for seats at the bar. “Sometimes they come to eat meals with me at the restaurant at 5 o’clock,” Lefebvre says.

When his family isn’t stopping in for dinner, “Papa” is making food the center of their world at home – especially for Luca, who can be seen eating his dad’s creations with gusto on his own Instagram account (see below). “I’ve cooked for them since they were very little,” Lefebvre says. “I want to spend time with them at the table. That’s where I want to create traditions and memories.”

But whether he’s making a roasted chicken at home on Sunday, whipping up crepes (see recipe on p. 82) for a fund-raiser at the kids’ school or preparing a plate of escargots at Petit Trois, Lefebvre is all about producing the same result. “It’s not about cooking for my ego,” he says. “I’ve learned it’s really about making people happy.”

CHOCOLATE CREPES

‘You can do anything you want with crepes, savory or sweet – that’s why I like them’

½ cup heavy whipping cream

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

3 large eggs, room temperature

¼ tsp. fleur de sel

1¾ cups whole milk, room temperature

2 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

2 tsp. finely grated orange peel

1 tbsp. canola oil

Unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Remove from heat. Add the chocolate and stir until melted and smooth, about 1 minute.

2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, eggs and fleur de sel to blend. Add the milk, butter and orange peel; whisk to combine. Cover the batter and refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.

3. Preheat the oven to 200°. Lightly brush an 8-in. nonstick pan with oil and heat over medium heat. Pour 2 tbsp. of the crepe batter into the pan and quickly swirl the pan to coat the bottom thinly and evenly, until all of the batter is set. Cook until the edges of the crepe are light brown, about 1 minute. Loosen the crepe edges gently with a rubber spatula. Using your fingertips, carefully lift the crepe by the edge and turn it over. Cook until the bottom begins to brown in spots, about 1 minute. Fold the crepe in half, then in half again, forming a triangle. Transfer to a baking sheet; keep warm in the oven. Repeat with the remaining batter.

4. When ready to serve, drizzle with warm chocolate sauce and dust lightly with cocoa powder.

SERVES: 8

PREP TIME: 10 minutes, plus cooling

COOK TIME: 15 minutes

LUDO’S

3-STEP GUIDE

HOW TO MAKE PERFECT FRENCH CREPES

1 MIX

“Whisk just until all the ingredients are combined. If it’s too thick, add a little more warm milk.”

2 STRAIN

“It’s a quick fix. You don’t want any lumps of flour in the batter. Texture is important.”

3 COOK

“Use a ladle to spread the batter very fast and very thin. That’s the key. Voilà!”

DONATELLA ARPAIA and ALESSANDRO

at PROVA in NEW YORK CITY

Donatella Arpaia’s Neapolitan pizzeria Prova is the 10th restaurant the celebrity chef has opened, but the first in one very important way. “This is my first restaurant since becoming a mom,” says the 43-year-old Food Network star. “My whole life changed when I got married [to heart surgeon Dr. Allan Stewart in 2011] and had my son Alessandro. It’s reflective of my life now.” Family is at the core of her New York City restaurant, which opened in January and has quickly become a must-eat destination. “Twice a week my husband and 3-year-old son will come in for dinner, and we’ll sit and talk about our day.” The eatery is also reminiscent of her own childhood. “Growing up, I spent my summers in Naples. I wanted this place to be authentic,” says Arpaia, whose Italian father was a restaurateur in New York. To achieve this, she created a “rustic luxe” space, using decor from Italy and shipping five tons of Neapolitan volcanic rock to build “the only pizza oven like it in the U.S.” The custom-made oven heats up evenly to “over 900 degrees,” which creates a chewy, crispy, soft-in-the-center crust in less than 90 seconds. Despite those exacting details, her inspiration is simple: “It’s all about the food I love,” she says. “This is how I entertain. If you came to my house, I’d make you pizza and salad.”

MAKE YOUR OWN

PIZZA DOUGH

The chef reveals her recipe for authentic Neapolitan-style crust

1½ cups room-temperature water

1 tsp. active dry yeast

4½ cups cake flour

2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to coat

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add water and yeast and wait 5 minutes until yeast dissolves. Using the paddle attachment on low speed, mix half the flour with the salt and olive oil until the dough is smooth and elastic, then add the remaining flour and mix for about 12 minutes.

2. Coat the inside of another large bowl with a thick layer of olive oil, about 1 tsp. Place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and place it in a warm place until the dough doubles in size, at least 2 hours.

3. Remove the plastic wrap and punch the dough to deflate slightly. Cut the dough to form 4 round dough balls. Place each ball in its own bowl, cover with plastic, and let sit for 35 minutes at room temperature.

4. Preheat the oven to 500°. Working one ball of dough at a time on a lightly floured surface, flatten it with your hands. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough ½ in. thick, starting at the center and working outward. Turn and roll the dough until it will not stretch further.

5. Use your palm to flatten the edges of the dough, then pinch to form a crust “lip” with your fingers (or a rolling pin). Place dough on a pizza stone or parchment-lined baking sheet. Place your desired toppings on top (see sidebar for suggestions). Bake on the bottom rack of oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until crust is crisp and golden brown. Slice and serve.

MAKES: Four 10-in. pizzas

PREP TIME: 45 minutes, plus at least 2 hours to rise

COOK TIME: 50 minutes

DIY PIE

DONATELLA’S FAVORITE TOPPINGS

SAUSAGE

and

BROCCOLI RABE

Top dough with sautéed broccoli rabe, cooked Italian sausage, Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh mozzarella and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Before serving, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.

BACON

and

CHIVES

Spread crème fraîche almost to the edges of the pie and scatter chopped bacon and chives on top.

CLASSIC MARGHERITA

Crush canned Italian tomatoes with their juices, then spread over the dough.

Add fresh mozzarella and torn basil leaves.

CHOCOLATE

and

BANANA

Cook sliced bananas in butter and brown sugar until caramelized. Spread chocolate-hazelnut spread on dough, and top with bananas and toasted coconut.

FLOYD

CARDOZ

at WHITE STREET in NEW YORK CITY

One of the first things Floyd Cardoz does when he starts his day at New York City’s White Street is check the reservation list. “I look for chefs, celebrities, regulars,” he says. “I try to make connections with all my guests.” His most notable diner at the grand downtown space has been President Barack Obama, who ate there last fall following its September opening. “To have the opportunity to have the President come to your restaurant is unbelievable,” says Cardoz, 54, who rose to national fame after winning the third season of Top Chef Masters. “He shook my hand and said the food was great.” The chef’s ability to subtly mix global flavors with American tastes is what has attracted foodies of all backgrounds. “We have such a mix of cultures in America that our food is not just one cuisine,” he says. “Our palates have adapted to different flavors, so White Street is a stage for me to bring them together in ways that are familiar to guests.” His culinary style is the norm around the family table with his wife, Barkha, and sons Justin, 17, and Peter, 22. “The way I cook at the restaurant is the way I cook at home,” he says. And although Cardoz is the one calling the shots, his staff is a large part of White Street’s success. “They are the people who make your food taste better,” he says. “Good food is not only about how it looks on the plate. It’s about how good it makes the person eating it feel.”

GRILLED PEPPER

SHRIMP

‘The sweetness of the shrimp and the heat of the spices make this a terrific dish’

2 lbs. large shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails on

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp. ground coriander

1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp. kosher salt

Juice of two limes

1. In a large mixing bowl, toss the shrimp with the olive oil, coriander and black pepper. Cover and chill for 3 hours (or up to overnight).

2. Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high heat. Season the shrimp with salt, and place them on an oiled grill. Cook for 4 minutes on each side, or until shrimp turn pink. Sprinkle with lime juice and serve.

SERVES: 4 to 6

PREP TIME: 5 minutes, plus marinating time

COOK TIME: 10 minutes

THE GUEST LIST

SEEN AT WHITE STREET

BARACK OBAMA

“Cooking for the President was the best you can get,” says Cardoz.

BROOKE SHIELDS

The star dined on Cardoz’s crab bucatini pasta.

MICHAEL STRAHAN

A highlight for Cardoz: taking a photo with the former N.Y. Giant.

JULIANNE HOUGH

The Dancing with the Stars judge attended a recent fashion dinner.

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