He could be taken a self-taught chefs – one of those former graphic design students eager to work with living matter – but Mathieu Rostaing Tayard has been cooking since the age of 14.

We were deeply moved by the way in which he talked about the challenges of being a chef and running a restaurant: combative, enthusiastic, and falsely light-hearted. It must be said; the arrival of this thirty-something chef in Lyon was long awaited.

His first restaurant affair, Le 126, quickly shook things up in our beloved Lyonnais gastronomy, more used to the typical “bouchons Lyonnais” than chef-driven restaurants. But at the young age of twenty-five, Mathieu could already boast such a title. From our meal at Le 126, we remember unbridled flavor associations, pointillism and folly, and incredible desserts that weren’t actually desserts. But most of all, we remember the indelible mark of a chef. Mathieu then sold number 126 rue de Sèze and set off to travel. He needed to get a breath of fresh air, broaden his horizons, free himself from his obligations, no longer be the boss whom everyone counted on, and find the time to focus on himself, and learn more, differently, in a new setting, in order to come back even stronger.

He opens Café Sillon  in a neighborhood of Lyon in the midst of a cosmopolitan makeover. The space, just like the kitchen, is huge and airy. It feels like a friend’s family home: you are simply and generously welcomed with a big smile. The clientele is eclectic, and captivated. The sustainable and full-bodied wines flow freely, the dining room is bustling and bubbly, and so are the dishes! Each composition is more complex and precise than it seems: the mackerel, watermelon and peppered mint is crisp and vibrant, like summer on a plate. And the enormous razor clam, barely cooked, is served with cucumbers, green peas, salicornia seaweed, gomasio and an herbaceous and vinegary broth that adds the perfect amount of saltiness and depth. While Mathieu Rostaing definitely plays in the gastro leagues, he also speaks comfort food: think exquisite pastrami with beets, oregano, mozzarella, blackberries and raspberries and a beautiful slab of pork with apricots. Memories of his Canadian escapades? It doesn’t matter; his cooking isn’t the kind you want to dissect. Just enjoy it, uninhibited.

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