Daniel Boulud, one of the most celebrated names in French cuisine, dishes on his favorite hometown haunts
By Ayesha Khan
“Although many would call me the quintessential Frenchman in New York, my roots are in Lyon,” says Daniel Boulud, 58, who was propelled to fame 20 years ago with the opening of his contemporary French dining room, Daniel, in New York’s Upper East Side. Growing up on a farm in the Rhône-Alpes was certainly the perfect upbringing for a budding chef, and though he has gone on to open restaurants around the world (Singapore’s DB Bistro among them), he still looks to France’s third-largest metropolis—from where the legendary Paul Bocuse also hails—as the “culinary capital of the world.” Here, he shows us around.
No food lover should miss Lyon’s two famed food markets. The Marché St.-Antoine is an outdoor affair on the banks of the Saône River “where farmers from the surrounding countryside bring their produce in the early morning—and probably where I first began to dream of becoming a chef,” Boulud says. Equally alluring is Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, an indoor market in the Part-Dieu district. “Some of my earliest memories of Lyon are of visiting Les Halles with my father to sell our produce, poultry, and goat cheeses. Now named after my ultimate chef-hero, it is filled with the most wonderful cheese makers, butchers, fishmongers, charcutiers, chocolatiers, and countless other purveyors of some of the very finest food France has to offer.”
Set on a tree-lined boulevard, Bernachon (42 Cours Franklin Roosevelt; 33-4/ 7824-3798) is home to Lyon’s best chocolates and pastries. Unlike some fondeurs who simply melt down chocolate to make their treats, Bernachon makes their chocolate from the finest raw material which they hand-roast and grind into the rich base for their memorable pralines, kalougas, boule crèmes, and many, many more. “You’ll also find 30 varieties of bite-size pastries known as mini-gâteaux, 30 varieties of petits fours, and even dark, rich chocolates lightly dusted with 24-karat gold.”
Local legend Paul Bocuse has restaurants all over town, including four bras- series named after the cardinal directions. Boulud’s favorite is L’Est (14 Place Jules Ferry; 33-4/3724-2526). “It’s the most animated of all the Bocuse restaurants; there’s an open kitchen, so you can see the chefs in action. Their best dishes are any fish on the bone—the baked daurade royale (sea bream) is excellent—and the seafood platter. And you can’t go wrong with a big roasted dish like the filet de boeuf.”
Filling as that sounds, don’t leave town before trying one of the local bistros, called bouchons, that specialize in Lyonnaise cuisine. Boulud recommends Café Comptoir Abel (25 Rue Guynemer; 33-4/7837-4618), founded back in 1928. “It’s a great place for friends to share good wine and eat classics like rognons de veau au Madère (pan-fried veal kidneys in Madeira) or quenelles de brochet (pike dumplings).”