FrontRunners: Taking It Slow

David LeFevre did not make a big splash as the new executive chef at downtown Los Angeles’ Water Grill (213.891.0900). Instead, Charlie Trotter’s former executive sous chef eased into the role so he could earn the trust of the seafood restaurant’s longtime patrons and, says the amiable 33-year-old, of his staff. “I wanted to show them that I could do what they were doing before I asked them to start making changes.”

Those changes, which LeFevre introduced one dish at a time over a six-month span, concluded in September with the replacement of the last remaining entrée from the prior menu. A similarly deliberate approach characterizes the chef’s cooking style, which favors slow poaching and steaming techniques that coax buttery textures from such seafood as Alaskan halibut and Rhode Island striped bass. “If someone wants a dish from the old menu, I give it to them that way and also send out a taste of the new way,” says LeFevre. “We’ve been a great restaurant, but restaurants that are exceptional are continually changing to make things better.”

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