Behind the Line: Sylva Senat, Philly’s Best Under-the-Radar Chef

Maison 208 chef Sylva Senat in an alley near his Old City home.(Photo courtesy Neff & Associates.)

Behind the Line is Foobooz’s new weekly interview series with the people who make up Philadelphia’s dynamic bar and restaurant scene. To read last week’s Behind the Line with Michael Solomonov, go here.

We’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting for Maison 208, the new 13th Street restaurant from Sylva Senat, the Haitian-born chef whose trajectory has taken him through the kitchens of Stephen Starr, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, groundbreaking Indian restaurant Tashan, and, most recently, Bravo’s Top Chef, where he had quite the respectable run during the last season. Well, Maison 208 is set to open any day — hello, City of Philadelphia, please sign the paperwork! — so we asked Senat to break it all down for us.

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Sylva Senat’s Maison 208 Is So Close to Opening in Midtown Village

Photo provided

Maison 208’s mural and retractable roof

At long last (nearly three years!), Sylva Senat’s new restaurant Maison 208 is almost here.

What started as a simple raze-and-rebuild at the corner of 13th and Chancellor Streets was set back nearly two years due to a fire-by-arson at the construction site. So Senat kept himself busy by consulting around Philly, opening a Center City taqueria and appearing on season 14 of Top Chef

But hiring and training has already started at Maison 208, the building is nearly complete (about one more week of work), and its soft opening is coming sooner than you think.

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Watch: First Look at New Season of Top Chef

Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi and Sylva Senat | Photo via BRAVO TV

Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi and Sylva Senat | Photo via BRAVO TV

The 14th season of Top Chef is set to begin on December 1st and Philadelphia’s culinary scene is set to have ample representation.

Sylva Senat, the Philadelphia-based chef who pioneered Dos Tacos and opened Tashan, will appear as a contestant. His dynamic resume includes working at Buddakan, graduating from Philadelphia’s Careers Through Culinary Arts Program and remaining a mentor. He is part of the team currently planning Maison 208Michael Solomonov, too, will appear as a guest judge this season.

Bravo released its first preview of the season yesterday and though Senat isn’t featured prominently in the preview, a back MRI and Padma flirting with the chefs make up for that.

Watch the preview »

Sylva Senat to Compete on Top Chef

SylvaSenatTop Chef is back for a 14th season and the still-popular Bravo show has plucked another Philadelphia-based chef to compete. Sylva Senat, who came up with Dos Tacos and was the man who opened Tashan on South Broad Street will be competing on this season from Charleston, South Carolina.

Senat’s resume is deep and varied. The Haitian native has cooked across the world including at Aquavit in New York and with Jean Georges’ restaurant at Trump Hotel. He also was chef de cuisine at 66 Leonard Street and Mercer Kitchen.

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Operators Announced for PHS Pop-Up Gardens

The PHS Pop Up Garden will return to the 1400 block of South Street | Photo via PHS

The PHS Pop Up Garden will return to the 1400 block of South Street | Photo via PHS

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has announced its designers and culinary teams for its two PHS Pop Up Gardens this summer. PHS returns to 15th and South for a third year on June 1st. The garden is being designed by Karen Regan of Tallulah & Bird. Regan created last year’s garden and this year is planning aged woods, inventive planters, antiques, flea market finds and curiosities to conjure a magical retreat. Plantings will include roses, fragrant herbs, cocktail cucumbers, a canopy of pink crape myrtles, climbing vines of hops, wisteria and clematis. As a centerpiece, there will be an illuminated, towering mulberry tree.

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Tashan Is Closing

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The tandoor ovens will cool after September 7th.

Tashan, the high-end Indian restaurant from Tiffin founder Munish Narula will close after dinner service on Monday, September 7th.

The attractive restaurant opened almost exactly four years ago to excellent reviews but never became the hard-to-get a reservation, must-be-seen-at restaurant that Narula envisioned it would become, and many, including this site practically demanded it be.

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Sylva Senat to Open Taco Shop at 15th and Sansom

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Thanks to HughE Dillon for the rendering of the interior of the new Dos Tacos

Everyone needs a project to distract them from the slings and arrows of daily life. Some people (shoutout to my dad) collect stamps. Others (also, shoutout to my dad) build model trains. And some people, the best people, open taco shops.

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Letto Deli To Be Razed, Replaced by New Restaurant

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Letto Deli, which has been reported to become everything from a Jose Garces wursthaus to a branch of the buzzed about Umami Burger is now slated to be demolished. But on the good side, the replacement for the single story building will house a restaurant. Michael Klein is reporting that Sylva Senat, who was the praised opening chef of Tashan will be in the kitchen.

Sylva Senat in deal at Letto Deli [The Insider]

Sylva Senat On The Books At Spice 28

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Sylva Senat was rather unceremoniously dismissed from his gig at Tashan back in June of this year, ending his critically-acclaimed run that won him love from just about every critic in town and three stars from our own Trey Popp. He went into consulting after that, taking on the task of helping to right the ship at Michael Schulson’s Saint James after it got savaged by pretty much every critic in town.

He finished up his tour in Ardmore at the Saint James in November. And now, according to the Insider, he’s come back to Center City to step in as a consultant at Spice 28–the two-chef Sichuan/fusion joint which got a two-star review from Trey in October. The Insider reports that Senat will be starting his tinkering on the fusion side and working forward from there.

Sylva Senat Consulting At Spice 28 [Insider]

Sylva Senat Lands at Ardmore’s Saint James

BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND: Modern Indian Cuisine with Sylva Senat of Tashan

Good news for fans of former Tashan chef Sylva Senat. Michael Klein reports that talented chef has landed at the Saint James in Ardmore. We feared the chef might head back to New York City but hadn’t considered the connection between Senat and the Saint James’ Michael Schulson. Senat cooked for Schulson when the energetic Schulson was Buddakan New York’s executive chef.

No word yet on a new menu but we’ll be following carefully.

Chef Sylva Senat lands on the Main Line [The Insider]

Photo by Yoni Nimrod

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