Chef David LeFevre runs a slice of heaven in California – Manhattan Beach Post – a local favorite that combines innovative food and a dynamic beach community social scene. Known for an atmosphere that keeps guests camped out, Lefevre’s MBP also hosts a bevy of artisanal dishes perfectly complimented by a carefully crafted beer, wine and cocktail list. With a history that includes Charlie Trotter, much world travel, and stints with Alain Ducasse and Gordon Ramsay, Lefevre is the kind of chef we couldn’t help but feature. It’s always a good sign when a restaurant across the country catches our eye – and there’s no denying this one did. We had to see just what this Manhattan Beach chef recommends…
What’s different about your food?
We don’t necessarily look at Manhattan Beach Post and seek out ways to be different. We try to look at how can we be the best based on our abilities, philosophies and principles. We as a team are driven by soulful, artisanal, handcrafted food so we strive to hit that on all fronts. We want to create food that evokes an emotion or conjures up a memory – food that you think about for days.
That food should be simple but not boring. It has bold and exciting flavors. There is a balance between comfort and adventure in our dishes that reflect growing up in the Midwest as well as traveling in Asia and Europe.
I want people to be at the table, listening to great music, socializing with the other guests next to them, while at the same time fighting for the last bite of the lamb belly.
Are you constantly making changes? How so?
Yes! We make menu changes in a very organic process. It starts with seasonality and what is available at the farmers market. The Farmers are our guides to what we should be naturally cooking with, and we are fortunate to be in a wonderful area for the country’s best produce. We have a crew of five to six of our chefs that visit the market in order to see the product and meet the farmers that are helping us develop our craft.
Next we look at what techniques we want to learn ourselves as cooks to better our craft. Right now we are working on in-house Corned Beef Cheeks. Previously we have learned to make our own mustards, steamed buns, harissa paste, and Chinese dumpling wrappers. Sometimes it can take weeks, depending on the research. Soulful, handcrafted, artisanal food is our goal, therefore we are always trying to explore and conquer new techniques that we can apply by hand in house, instead of purchasing it. That’s especially true when it comes to different cultures.
Lastly, we want to make sure that when we do make a change on the menu, it is a complete dish and we are not using our guests in the trial process. Our discerned palate should be tweaking the dish and its flavors, textures and smells to a point where it is menu worthy. That takes patience and a commitment to the right process, not an attachment to a specific outcome.
What’s special about your menu?
The menu reflects our travels and experiences as chefs. That includes global influences, shared plates, a balance of richness, acidity, and the use of fresh herbs that are fundamental for bold and bright flavors. These are the foundation for a wide-reaching menu that still works once on the table. Vegetables are extremely important to me and are not just sides – everything on the menu is treated as a dish and should stand out on its own. I think that ten years ago my focus was to show everyone how great of a chef I was by manipulating the product, whereas today I feel a responsibility to be a vehicle to show what great product we have and highlight the product, not my experience.
How do your travels and experiences play into your restaurant?
I have traveled and worked around the world specifically to put myself in the best culinary environments and immerse myself in those cultures. Whether that be Tokyo, Roses, Bray, Sydney, or Chicago. So there is a huge influence there. But the biggest influence that inspired me to open Manhattan Beach Post was a conversation that I had with my Mother when she returned form her first trip overseas to Spain. She explained to me that she enjoyed the food in Spain the most because you didn’t have to pay a lot of money to get great quality food. It was available to everyone. At the time in Wisconsin there wasn’t the dynamic food culture that you can find today, so it made an impression on me. That’s what we are trying to do at M.B. Post: Provide great quality by applying fine dining technique to great product, in a fun atmosphere that is of great value.
Your go-to recipe when cooking outside the restaurant for family and friends…
I love – I mean LOVE – cooking over live wood fires. It strikes me at my core because it is such a visceral, primitive feeling to light a fire and roast seafood or meat. So when I entertain at home I like to get the grill going with apple, alder or white oak wood and then simply prepare high quality ingredients over the grill. Spot Prawns, Rib Eye and Spiney Lobster are awesome grilled over live wood and take on a great smoky flavor. I usually serve compound butters or high acidity sauces like chimichurri with them.
Can you share some menu favorites from Manhattan Beach Post?
One of my favorite dishes that people really enjoy is our Pomegranate Cous Cous with Lavender Cured Feta and Marcona Almonds and Mint. The pomegranate has such bright flavors and great textures and the feta and almonds are just rich enough to balance out the leanness of the cheese. We also get excited every time our Green Curry Mussels get ordered in. We make our own green curry paste in house and add coconut milk, Prince Edward Island Mussels, cilantro, kefir lime leaves and coriander sticky rice. It is served piping hot with coriander and ginger scented steam pouring through the lid and throughout the dining room.
What are your favorite cities to travel for food? What spots do you go to there?
I love St. Sebastian, Sevilla, and Barcelona for high quality, everyday great food. The food in South East Asia is also so flavorful. One of my favorite towns is Chang Mai.
Where do you go for inspiration?
After traveling around the world for nearly a decade, I have truly found my home in Manhattan Beach. All I need to do is look outside the restaurant window at the ocean in front of me and I am reminded of what to be thankful for. For culinary inspiration, I love to eat where my friends are cooking. Steve Samson and Zach Pollack, Roy Choi, Matt Molina, Sang Yoon, Zoe Nathan, Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook, Giuseppe Tentori, Matthias Merges; they all inspire me.
Where would you like to travel for inspiration that you haven’t been to yet?
Marrakesh. And, I know this sounds off beat, but oyster-hopping in British Columbia
What beers go best with your menu?
With the bold flavors, herbs and acidity as staple elements on the menu, we find that crisp, balanced beer with firm hops do well. Strand ‘Atticus’ IPA works beautifully. The fall flavors tempered by dry focused hops scream ‘drink me’. Brighter and livelier beers also work well, like the Ommegang ‘Hennipin’ Saison, which has a creamy yet lean mouthful, packed full of spice, citrus and balanced hops.