Lido Bottle Works Executive Chef Amy Lebrun Exceeds Her Own High Standards

”I tell my staff, ’Would you serve this to your mother or your father?’ You’re only as good as your last plate.”
Photograph by Ralph Palumbo

The Huntington Beach High graduate, who went to culinary school at Orange Coast College, is a nurturer who has always been into hospitality. She’s also ambitious: “I need to be challenged. I was a vegan for three weeks last year so I could try to understand that culture. … Every goal that I set with the partners, I’ve achieved. We aim high together. This encompasses me. I get to play in the garden all day, and I get to source (from) everywhere I want.”

Lebrun’s parents worked opposite shifts when she was young. She played with neighbor kids outside until called in for dinner, which was often a microwaved potato, ground beef, and canned vegetables. “So I would seek a second dinner. The Wong family served me killer Chinese food. There was a Hungarian family around the corner, so I learned ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in Hungarian. There was Armenian food three doors down. So now I was learning all these cultures and was being nurtured through food. We found commonality in the food. That was exciting to me. As soon as I could go to school, I did. Then I could give back to my parents by cooking for them.”

She worked in resorts upon finishing culinary school and learned from some of the best. “I started off with (chef-owner of Break of Dawn) Dee Nguyen at Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point. He was very serious and intense. And I wanted to be like him, so I became intense. I moved myself through the ranks. It was the best education you could ever have. The hiring team at Pelican Hill gave me a call. And I was so excited. Jean-Pierre Dubray (executive chef at Pelican Hill) was a Ritz-Carlton alum from San Francisco. He was Dad. He demanded excellence—super high standards. I was used to that. He was one of the hardest-working men I’d ever seen: hands-on and engaging.”

After stints in catering and baking, she heard from a friend. “I went to a pop-up dinner with Dee and met (chef) Joel Harrington. I started (as sous chef at Lido Bottle Works) from Day One. I wouldn’t have had that opportunity if Dee hadn’t given me a call. He was one of the people I respected the most. He was really tough, but it was tough love. He was a good leader, whether he wants to think so or not.”

In her downtime, Lebrun gives back to the community. “I go to The Orchard in Santa Ana. It used to be a motel. Now it houses people who are formerly homeless. There’s a community garden for the residents. I plant and harvest it, and I teach them how to do that. Some people would consider that work, but that’s a way of life for me: talking about what I love, nurturing people through food. I call it culinary medicine. I serve them a meal. I’m making them feel special and connecting through the garden we grew together.”

She has a Pyrex addiction, a record collection, and loves roller skating and time with family. “I try to have Sundays off. I do Sunday supper with my family, and everybody comes over to my house. It teaches me patience, and it’s good for me. Sometimes, I do a chefs Sunday supper. We go to a new place together. The last O.C. place we went was Gracias Madre. Next on the list is Bello ’cause I know him (Sandro Nardone). We also want to go to The Hall. O.C. has some of the greatest resources.”


Lido Bottle Works is still open for takeout! Order at lidobottleworks.com/shop

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