Chef Ludo Lefebvre is a big deal. So is Chez Maggy.
It’s been just shy of a year since the resplendent hall of classic French cooking opened in the Thompson Hotel downtown. It was a good year for Chez Maggy. The already excellent food got better. The lavishness never once waned.
Lefebvre is usually on-site one week per month, during which time he stays at the hotel and keeps the overall vision of his restaurant steady. But the day-to-day operations are handled by chef de cuisine Jeff Schwing. So while it may be Lefebvre filling the menu with classics like Escargot and Duck Confit and new plates like Chilaquiles, it’s Schwing who keeps the execution consistent.
“In Jeff, I see myself when I was a young cook,” said Lefebvre. Schwing is a Colorado local — born in Denver and raised largely in Evergreen. He cut his teeth in some of Denver’s most-revered kitchens including Acorn, Death and Co, Grown + Gather and Brasserie Brixton. He initially applied to work at Chez Maggy as a line cook, though Lefebvre recognized his leadership skills from the jump. He opened the restaurant in his current position and has been pivotal in making the place a success.
“My role isn’t creativity at this point. My role is to use my skills to execute his (Lefebvre’s) vision,” said Schwing. “He trusts me to make decisions because he knows my decisions will be what he wants.” Schwing runs a fairly classic brigade system and prizes his vendors, maintaining many connections from his time at Grow + Gather. “If you don’t have a good relationship with your vendors, you’re not a good chef. Period,” he continued.
With Lefebvre’s recipes and Schwing’s commitment to good sourcing, it should be no surprise that Chez Maggy’s food is exquisite. There’s a BBQ eggplant ($24) dressed with Thai green curry, peanut vinaigrette, herb salad and fried shallots. Colorado lamb chops ($46) are set atop grilled brassicas, dandelion puree and mustard frills. The foie gras tartine ($32) with blackberry-port gastrique is a masterclass in decided decadence no visit should be without.”I’m happy to be here because I can cook foie,” grinned Lefebvre. While there are many staples — don’t expect the Burger a la Francaise ($28) or the Omelette Petit Trois ($24) to go anywhere — the menu is adjusted around what’s available and in season.
There’s a good reason Lefebvre has remained at the center of continued acclaim. The brilliance of Chez Maggy is that it doesn’t run star power alone. Instead, the restaurant’s real magnificence comes from the ease with which the two chefs share the spotlight and Lefebvre’s willingness to trust in and cultivate Schwing’s obvious talent. “I love mentoring. I love to teach,” said Lefebvre. “The first job as a chef is to cook, but the rest is to teach.”
Lefebvre has proven he can cook anywhere. Chez Maggy could only really exist here.
Chez Maggy is located in the Thompson Hotel at 1616 Market St., Denver. It is open Monday – Thursday from 7 a.m. – 9 p.m., Friday from 7 a.m. – 10 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.