Where to eat the best cuisine in France
There are places you must visit as a chef.
For Jordan Toft, the executive chef of Sydney behind Bert’s and Coogee Pavilion, Lyonnais in France is one of those destinations. Famous French food critic Curnonsky called Lyon a “world capital of gastronomy” in 1935, culinary writer Bill Buford moved there because it’s still true more than seven decades later and not so long ago, GQ called him “The real capital of French gastronomy”.
Toft has always been attracted by Lyon’s reputation for “glue de coasts” and country cuisine, the humble cuisine led by Mères Lyonnaises (“Mothers of Lyon”), who made their culinary debut as domestic cooks for middle-class families, creatively using every piece of meat, even unpopular cuts. They later ended up running restaurants across town.
“They used all parts of the pig and smothered it in cream, butter and gravy,” Toft explains. He likens this hearty cooking style to a mom giving you a big hug.
A famous “mother” was Eugenie Brazier, the first chef to be awarded six Michelin stars simultaneously (an honor she maintained for 20 years) and mentor of Paul Bocuse, Lyon’s most famous culinary son (the local markets even bear his name). Brazier was taught by Françoise Fayolle, alias Mère Fillioux, who only women employed in his kitchen. Mother Fillioux’s famous cooking of chicken in pork bladder is still served at Restaurant Paul Bocuse today, although in a grand style which is accompanied by a 260 euros price tag.
For Toft, it’s not the Michelin-starred cuisine that draws him to Lyon, but the working-class food that originally fed the employees of the local silk factory, who sought out rich meals after completing the night shifts:
“Nine at 10 in the morning, that would be their dinner, it would be pate, roast meats, tripe, cheese and a glass of wine.” This is why he wanted to visit: Lyon was the “unusual Paris” designed for big appetites, the place also known as “Belly of France”.
“For a while there, there were these restaurants for men, where we couldn’t enter unless you weighed less than 175 pounds, ”he says.
“And you were charged 5 cents (cents) per pound you weighed and you could eat as much as you wanted: things like breaded giblets, chick, pate, and pig’s trotters which I love.”
So when Toft moved to France in 2006, to cook in a chalet in Haute-Savoie, he was sure he would be in Lyon soon. He just needed to get behind the wheel and it was just over two and a half hours: home of the Lyonnaise salad with bacon, tripe soup and Venus-shaped dumplings.
But then he found himself driving straight eight times and never stopping.
“It was always a city I wanted to go to, and I kept walking past.” When he made plans to visit properly, something always ended up happening. It was funny: “The Curse of Lyon, I never made it”. And then he was back running restaurants in Sydney.
Finally, 13 years later, armed with a Eurail Pass, he finds himself in the “unusual Paris” he dreamed of. In April he visited Daniel & Denise, a die Cork-traditional style restaurants for which Lyon is famous. A stopper means “stopper” in French, but also refers to the straw brushes which local silk workers cleaned their horses. Its bistro-style setting offers classic dishes – Toft ordered pie, veal liver, chicken covered with morels and cream, macaroni gratin and sautéed potatoes.
“We can see that these caps are not only a rite of passage for a Lyonnais, they are proud of it,” he says. This image of “real”, unpretentious cuisine is an unshakeable part of the city’s charm.
Charlotte Gonzales-Poncet, the chef behind the new Sydney Jounieh restaurant, grew up in Gabon – but Lyon definitely influenced his family diet.
“The Lyonnaise salad is a dish that we had at least once a week for dinner,” she says. His father made it with mustard and walnut oil vinaigrette, while his mother (who once lived an hour south of Lyon) often cooked chicken with crayfish, a dish of chicken and crayfish that Gonzales-Poncet loved it so much that she drowned pasta in it. the remaining sauce.
The salted pork with lentils was another favorite of the Lyon family (his father had trouble controlling his cravings) while the black pudding which was difficult to appreciate for his child’s appetite ended up shaping his palate: “I am a huge fan of it now.
The chef (who worked at the Michelin starred restaurant L’Atelier in Arles, France, and restaurants in Sydney hats like Felix and Fred’s) states that “Lyon is the capital of gastronomy, so it has always been a very important influence in my culinary experience. Even though she currently cooks Middle Eastern dishes in Jounieh, she says, French “culinary culture” still inspires her menu.
Gonzales-Poncet attributes Lyon’s location (which is cut in two by the famous Rhone river) for its culinary importance.
Before road transport existed, having a large river crossing Lyon gave it access to many ingredients. Toft agrees, saying that being close to Charolles (for vegetables), Savoie (for fish), Dombes (for game), Bresse (for “the best chicken in the world”) and Rhône and Beaujolais (for wine) give Lyon a culinary edge.
Chef Daniel Southern grew up in England and his parents would often take him 11 hours’ drive to the south of France, where they had bought a business.
There was always a stop around Lyon that would be punctuated with ‘dubious French coffee’ for breakfast and ‘fancy’ sausages, lentils and mustard for dinner – ‘even though I asked for less mustard back then, ”Southern says. “A lovely fresh curly endive, bacon, an egg and a tangy shallot vinaigrette in the form of a Lyonnaise salad was for me heaven at the time.”
These experiences have undoubtedly influenced the French-trained chef, who worked at the Melbourne bistro L’Oustal and will soon be cooking in the new late-night brasserie. Margaux. While he has many theories as to why Lyon remains a culinary capital, Southern realizes that the answer is in fact simple: unlike the “disenchantment” he felt in Paris and Marseille, the city was exuding. family warmth when you dine at the restaurant.
Perhaps you could compare it to a hug from a mother from Lyon.