One of the great benefits of writing for FriendsEAT is that I have great access. Earlier this year I got to meet the team behind Only Lyon. They are in charge of letting the world know just how amazing Lyon is (it is, I’ve been obsessed with it for years & have been there 4 times). This year, when Antonio surprised me with a trip to France for our 10th not-married anniversary, I figured I’d reach out to Only Lyon to see if they could hook me up with some very special experiences. I’m thrilled to say they did and they went beyond my expectations. I was set up to take a tour of Les Halles de Paul Bocuse with none other than Chef Davy Tissot of Villa Florentine.
This is kinda-sorta-seriously special. Let me tell you why. The head chef at Les Terrases de Lyon, Davy Tissot, has been making a name for himself, and his restaurant, by bringing French cuisine to another level.
In 2004, Chef Tissot earned the Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Best Worker of France) award and he has continued showing why he deserves that designation ever since. In 2010, he received the Grand Chef Relais and Chateux award, just six years after becoming head chef at Les Terrases de Lyon.
We got to chat with Chef Tissot as he walked us through Les Halles and as he introduced us to his favorite purveyors there. He told us that he did not grow up with designs to enter the culinary arena. In fact, he let us know that his original dream was to be an athlete. But when an injury took him off the field for good, Davy needed to find a new ambition. He credits a combination of factors for turning him to the world of cooking: the need for a challenge (makes sense with his athletic background), a desire to see others happy and his grandmother’s Sicilian heritage.
After considering these three drives, creating gourmet cuisine seemed like the natural choice. Chef Tissot learned from the best, including Paul Bocuse, Regis Marcon, Philippe Gauvreau, Roger Jaloux and Jacques Maximin. He took the knowledge imparted by these prestigious chefs, and now presents his skills at Les Terrases de Lyon at the Villa Florentine Hotel (fitting with his Italian heritage). It sits atop the hill of Fourviere in Lyon (perfect if you’re an architecture and church buff like me – you can check out the Roman ruins AND the Fourviere church). If you’re staying in old Lyon, you can grab the funicular and be there in no time. Needless to say, it’s highly recommended.
Les Halles de Paul Bocuse
I had visited Les Halles de Paul Bocuse before. I had actually been there a lot of times. Les Halles is located just a few steps away from the apartment I rent every time I stay in the city. But with Chef Tissot it was a completely different experience. I got to know each vendor and Chef Tissot gave us his secrets on where to buy and how to buy at this gorgeous market place which boasts over 6o boutique vendors.
The History of the Halles de Lyon
Before the Halles de Lyon was built, the area hosted the Place de Cordelier, which was built back in 1859. It too was a covered market, constructed to help traders conduct their business and serve the people of Lyon in buying their food. After more than a hundred years of use, time took its toll on the Place de Cordelier. New regulations also made the aisles too small, along with other issues. So in 1971, the Place de Cordelier was torn down and the Halles de Lyons constructed in its place. It has been serving the people of Lyon in a manner fitting of its predecessor ever since.
The Site Itself
The Halles de Lyon covers 12,500 sq. meters and goes up 3 levels. There are shops throughout. The second floor features restaurants as well as bathrooms (if a restaurant looks packed, ask them if there is upstairs seating). This means that you can spend your morning shopping, take a quick break with a glass of wine and some oysters, go back to shopping, and meet your friends afterwards for a nice lunch. You can find almost anything that has to do with local Lyonnaise cuisine including, pork scratching, sausages, dumplings snails and all types of cheese. But the Halles de Lyon is also well known for its amazing selection of international foods as well.
Currently, the official name of the Halles de Lyon is Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse. This name refers to the internationally known French chef, Paul Bocuse, who is culinary royalty not only in Lyon, but throughout the world (haven’t met him yet…but soon…very soon). The name lends a certain amount of cache to the establishment and is one of the reasons so many tourists come to visit. And once you’ve walked in the door, it’s vendors, restaurants, and stalls will make you fall in love. It is Bocuse’s court, the men and women that make up Lyon’s culinary royalty like Renée Richard and Colette Sibilia that make Les Halles such a special place.
I’ve done my best to translate what everyone had to say. Just keep in mind, my French is good…but definitely not perfect. If you know French, please feel free to correct me
Chef Tissot’s Tour & Recommendations
LE BOULANGER DE L’ILE BARBE: Philippe-Marc Jocteur is a gorgeous boulanger (baker). His shop carries everything from baguettes, to croissants, to tarts. But the piece de resistance is his tarte aux pralines. This classic Lyonnaise dessert is made of butter, sugar, almond powder, creme and French pink pralines. Chef Tissot told us that it is the best in Lyon, and we agree. This is one of those desserts that the savory lover will enjoy. It was not at all cloying, but elegant and sophisticated. The crust was buttery, crumbly and delicious. I tasted others throughout the city that were good, some that were horrible, but this was definitely the best in town.
“Here is the best tarte praline in Lyon. The tarte praline is set on shortbread and, made with almonds that are mixed with creme, milk, and sugar.” – Chef Davy Tissot.
Hours of Operation: Tuesday- Sunday 8:00 am – 7pm. Sunday & holidays 8:00 am to 2pm.
LA MERE RICHARD: With over fifty years of cheese history, La Mere Richard is the authority when it comes to farm products. The family has passed on their knowledge from generation to generation to Renée Richard. The shop carries only the best and most reputable producers of local cheeses from the most coveted AOC’s. You want to get your Saint-Marcellin here. Renée Richard spoke to us a bit about her family history and about the family specialty:
“Saint Marcellin is the specialty of Lyon and of La Mere Richard. It’s a little cheese made of cow’s milk that is fabricated in the area of Vercors. This St. Marcellin is super creamy, and well aged and should be kept for weeks in the right temperature and humidity. This will make it perfect for spreading on bread. It is truly “the” Lyonaise cheese.
My mother brought it to fame. It was very risky at the beginning because Saint-Marcellin had to be very firm, and had to be sold at a very precise moment when they were good to be sold. She found a refining mode that worked fine and has been appreciated. Now it’s cheese of bistros and bouchons in Lyon as well as of the (Michelin) starred restaurants. Everybody has some Saint-Marcellin on their plate.” - Renée Richard
What does St. Marcellin taste like? It’s elegant and mild. As it develops in the mouth it becomes nutty and fruity. It’s soft and spreadable and delicious. Try it with a richer chardonnay or a nice light red.
Hours of Operation: Tue-Thu : 7am-12:30pm & 3pm-7pm, Wed 7am-12:30pm, Fri-Sat 7am-7pm, Sun & Holidays 7am-1pm.
CELLERIER CHEESE SHOP: Cellerier is more than just a cheese shop. It is a collection of shops that include a cheese monger, butcher, charcuterie (a sort of delicatessen – but for really good cured meats), shellfish vendor, sweet shop, AND an Italian shop in case you’re craving amazing lasagna. I have spent a lot of time at Cellerier during all my trips to Lyon, but going there with Chef Tissot and meeting his friend Denis Bert, cheese monger AND ager, made it so much better for me.
I think we spent the most amount of time here. He tasted us on lots of delicious cheeses like Comte, Fourme d’Ambert, and Eppoises. What I was most excited about was tasting real Mimolette which is sadly illegal in the USA. Yup…illegal cheese. We’re allowed to take guns to bars, but we’re not allowed to eat delicious French cheese because of itty bitty mites….anyway, I am glad to report that Mimolette is delish.
Denis gave us a brief explanation of Mimolette: “An explanation of Mimolette. There are two Mimolettes in the world, the French and the Hollandaise. The one from Holland has an outer casing made of paraffin. French Mimolette has a natural crust. The affinage (ageing) is done with “acariens de fromage” or cheese mites. (These are my words, not Denis’ – The mites are a source of controversy in the USA because, quite frankly, we’re kinda idiots here when it comes to our food.) Mimolette is misunderstood in France, because people think that Mimolette is from Holland. The one from Holland is not terrible, but the French is superior.
BOUCHERIE TROLLIET: Chef Tissot also taught us about the famed Bresse Poultry at Boucherie Trolliet. It was founded in 1970 by Maurice Trolliet (MOF – Meilleur Ouvrier de France - 1986), and it offer the highest quality beef, milk-fed veal, Limousin lamb, game, and the famed Bresse poultry. I always knew the French were serious about their food, but this is where I really come to see how much the French love and respect their food.
Here’s what he taught us about the Birds of Bresse:
- Bresse Poultry: All Bresse Poultry is of the Gauloise de Bresse breed. It can be male or female, and is fed corn, wheat, dairy, and cereals that are sourced in Bresse. This is truly a local bird. It roams free (a little over 10 yards per bird) where it supplements its diet with insects and worms it finds in the grass. It will cost you about $12 USD per lb
- Bresse Capon - These are the boys. Like the ladies, they are fed corn, wheat, and Bresse dairy. He gets 22 yards to roam around and find grubs to snack on. He becomes a capon when he is castrated for the Easter holiday. The meat of the Capon de Bresse is tender with high marbling.
- Bresse Poulard – These are the ladies who are fed corn, wheat, and dairy from Bresse. She’s also got a little over 10 yards to roam on and she eats worms, insects, and grass. These ladies must never have laid an egg. She is finished off in her coop where she is fed only dairy to fatten her up and give her a specific flavor. This bird gives meat that is tender and succulent. It will cost you about $13 USD per pound
These birds are gorgeous. We experimented with them and the meat is simply superb. If you ever find Bresse birds, you need to look for a few things to make sure they are authentic (yes, there are imitations):
- Left Leg – there’s a metal band that identifies it as coming from Bresse
- Logos – there are two logos on the package: AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlee) and AOP (Appellation d’Origine Protege)
- Seal – The birds come with a three color seal in the colors of the French flag (blue, white & red) that will say “Comité Interprofessionnel de la Volaille de Bresse“
You will also note that in France, the legs and heads are left on the bird. This is so you can ascertain that the birds are fresh and healthy. Cool stuff. Something we need to get back to in the States.
Hours of Operation: Tue-Thu 7:30am-12:15pm & 3pm-7pm, Wed 7:30am-12:15pm, Fri-Sat 7:30am-7pm, Sun & Holidays 7:30am-12:30pm
CHARCUTERIE TRAITEUR SIBILIA: This charcuterie has been around since 1925 when Pierre Sibilla left Italy. By 1938, he was settled at Les Halles de Cordeliers. In 1971, when Les Halles was moved to the third arrondisement (Part Dieu – where Les Halles currently resides), Sibilia came with it.
Today, Colette Sibilia, the matriarch of the charcuterie and possibly all of Lyon’s culinary families (no joke, every chef and food personality has made the pilgrimage to meet her) greets loyal customers on a daily basis.
All of Lyon’s best restaurants go to Colette and her daughters for their charcuterie. She is warm and kind, and her products are out of this world.
Go ahead and indulge while you’re there, then take a walk to Parc de la Tête d’Or with all your goodies from Les Halles for a picnic. It will be the adventure of a lifetime.
Hours of Operation: Tue-Wed: 8am-12pm & 3:30pm-7pm, Thu-Sat: 8am-7pm, Sun & Holidays 8am-1pm.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW
Hours of Operation.
- Sundays – shopping at Les Halles de Paul Bocuse closes at 2:30pm. Restaurants are still open, but it is a bit quiet.
- Mondays – shops are also closed, but you can certainly go in for a bite.
- Lunch Time – On all other days, if you show up between 12pm & 3pm, you will have a hard time securing a table. This is when the Lyonaisse have lunch and Les Halles tends to get packed. If you want lunch, get there earlier.
- Night Time – Shops & restaurants close and only the écaillers (Shellfish stands) are open. Fine for me, but if you have a friend with a shellfish allergy, you may have some issues.
- Ferragosto – In August, many towns in France and Italy close down since locals go to the beach, this means a lot of places close or adjust their hours). In Lyon during the months of May – August, the hours of operation for shop & restaurants may vary. Check the official site of Les Halles for more details before you head in.