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Photo by: J Fusco, Visit Philly

SYLVA SENAT - Maison 208

What set you on the path to become a Chef, when did you first decide you wanted to pursue this career within the culinary field. What other positions have you held in the past? Can you elaborate on those positions?

I grew up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Early on, after moving from Haiti to the U.S., I was given the opportunity to join the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) and was fortunate enough to be mentored by C-CAP Founder Richard Grausman, which ultimately built the foundation for my career. I currently serve as a proud alumni board member and a mentor to recent grads and high school students. I think it’s important to give back to the organization that helped me to get my start in this industry. 

 I first got into cooking while in High School, I took a cooking class and realized I excelled at reading recipes. After some encouragement from my teacher, I ended up working at the Sign of The Dove where I was exposed to a whole new world of old school culinary at a restaurant that had a true pastry program.

I have also had the opportunity to spend time in the kitchens of some of the world’s most famous chefs, including Jean George, Daniel Boulud and Marcus Samuelsson at restaurants such as the Sign of the Dove, Mercer Kitchen, Aquavit and a number of STARR restaurants.

Full experience is listed below:

o    Executive Chef & Partner, Maison 208 (Philadelphia, PA), 2017

o    Founding Partner, Senat & Co. (Philadelphia, PA), 2016-present

o    Chef I Consulting, Senat Restaurant Consulting (Philadelphia, PA), 2013-present

o    Executive Chef, Tashan Restaurant (Philadelphia, PA), 2010-2013

o    Chef de Cuisine, Buddakan – STARR Restaurants (New York, NY), 2008-2011

o    Executive Chef, Koco at El San Juan Hotel (Puerto Rico), 2007-2008

o    Sous Chef, Buddakan NYC – STARR Restaurants (New York, NY), 2006-2007

o    Chef de Cuisine, Mercer Kitchen at the Mercer Hotel – Jean-Georges Management LLC (New York, NY), 2005-2006

o    Chef de Cuisine, 66 Leonard Street – Jean-Georges Management LLC (New York, NY), 2004-2005

o    Sous Chef, Jean George’s (New York, NY), 2001-2004

o    Sous Chef/Line Chef, Aquavit (New York, NY), 1998-2001

o    First Cook, Cibo (New York, NY), 1998-1999

o    Cook, Sign of the Dove (New York, NY), 1995-1998


What would you say is your most intricate dish at Maison 208? What’s your inspiration behind it, What’s the story?

I would say our Lyonnaise Salad. At first, it would seem like a simple salad, but in fact, it has a puff pastry ring around it to make the dish look similar to a delicate bird’s nest. Tucked inside the ring of buttery and flaky puff pastry are haricots verts, Applewood smoked bacon, thinly sliced onions, fingerling potatoe and heirloom cherry tomatoes. To finish the Lyonnaise Salad, we make a Mustard dressing that uses Tahitian vanilla beans. We also round it out with California Frisee topped with an egg cooked at 62 degree Celsius in the center of the plate to give it even more of a “bird’s nest” appearance. This dish was inspired by a combination of my time spent at Paul Bocuse in Lyon France and Maison 208’s mural design, curated by local Philadelphia artist James Burns which is a focal point throughout the entire restaurant.


What aspects of Skuna Bay brand resonates with you and why? In your experience with working with our Salmon, how is it comparable with other premium products you’ve used in the past.

Everything from the packaging to the personal touches of the box and knowing that this fish was sustainably raised and selected specifically for you by a skilled expert. It’s clear that Skuna Bay has an honest appreciation for their craft. It’s also clear that they care about that salmon, not just as a product, but as a respectful and prideful animal that should be cherished, enjoyed and not wasted. Whenever I get the chance to use salmon, I always prefer Skuna bay.


Where do you pull inspiration from, for the menu at Maison 208?

I crafted the Maison 208 menu based on my personal state of culinary evolution which incorporates a combination of both tastes from my childhood memories and a reflection of where I currently am as a chef. Between food, drink and atmosphere, Maison 208 was created to be a welcoming, Philadelphia neighborhood-driven concept.

As a chef, I try to thoughtfully prepare each meal as if I were serving dinner to friends and family who have been invited to the dinner table at my own home. Regardless of how busy the restaurant gets, I always aim to provide a personal experience when guests choose to dine at Maison 208. I’ve found that in order to continue to bring in truly great guests, it’s very important to establish lasting connections and create memories around their experience. I think that personalization is what differentiates the Philadelphia food scene from other food-focused cities across the U.S


How have you applied these inspirational aspects to your dishes, or your menu? Was there any inspiration or influence behind incorporating Skuna Bay on your menu?

I focus on using the highest quality and locally sourced ingredients possible for all my dishes (such as Skuna Bay) to provide our guests with the best, most memorable experience. We have always used Skuna Bay and we make sure to highlight then brand on our menus.