Despite being closed since early 2021, much has simmered on the back burner at Monterey’s most decorated restaurant.
The familiar Old Monterey brick firehouse (built in 1910) — home to Michelin-rated Montrio Bistro since 1995 — will reopen to the public on February 17. It’s all been part of a carefully orchestrated plan that included a pandemic pause, an interior makeover, an abbreviated name change and a national search for a new executive chef.
Helping write the next chapter for the popular downtown eatery called Montrio is acclaimed chef Sascha Lyon who built a sterling reputation by working with some of the finest French masters in the world.
“It’s incredibly exciting to have the opportunity to live and work in this beautiful part of the world,” said Lyon, most recently the executive chef at King Estate Winery in Eugene, Ore. “Seafood and vegetables are my favorite, and we are in the best possible place in the world for such amazing ingredients. I really see no limitations, and I can’t wait to help carry the torch of such a long-standing, very well-received restaurant. I will respect its foundations and grow upon that. It’s pretty awesome.”
Although his name sounds French (after all, the city of Lyon is France’s undisputed gastronomic capital), Lyon (pronounced like lion) is a native of Los Angeles. Adopted into the world of French cuisine by some of that country’s finest master chefs, Lyon brings both classic training and an innovative approach to the Montrio kitchen.
“We are thrilled to welcome someone as talented and well-respected as Sascha to lead the Montrio team,” said Coastal Roots Hospitality co-owner Ken Donkersloot (also Rio Grill in Carmel, Tarpy’s in Monterey and Coastal Roots Events & Catering). “It’s an exciting time in the evolution of this storied restaurant. We can’t wait to welcome new friends and old to a newly refreshed and inviting Montrio.”
Lyon began his culinary career at the age of 14, working at Michel Blanchet’s classical French kitchen at L’Ermitage in Los Angeles. From there he went to work at Citrus under the tutelage of renowned chef Michel Richard and chef de cuisine Alain Giraud.
“I had tremendous opportunities as a child to travel and connect with different food and cultures,” said Lyon, who lived in both Paris and London. “I love to eat, and making decisions on what to eat was always front of mind. I mostly connected with the dining experience as a whole. When it’s right, an all-encompassing cohesive experience forms deep memories.”
After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 1992, Lyon moved to New York City to work with superstar chef Daniel Boulud, an opportunity made possible by Michelin three-star chef Roger Vergé of Moulin de Mougins in France. Chosen by Boulud to be one of the 12 young chefs selected from around the world to be part of the opening team at Restaurant Daniel, Lyon was only 20 years old when he joined that star-studded team.
After three years at Daniel, Lyon left New York to cook in London and Miami, and returned to the Big Apple in 1997 to join the opening team of renowned brasserie Balthazar as sous chef. Three years later he earned the prestigious title as the chef de cuisine of Pastis, where he remained for the next six years.
Lyon next embarked on his own endeavor with the renovation of a 130-year-old, historical landmark building and home of SASCHA Restaurant and Bakery in New York City.
After several years of operation, Lyon returned to Los Angeles for a change of lifestyle. He accepted the position as the executive chef of W Hollywood Hotel & Residences, a multi-outlet property that houses Delphine Brasserie, where the menu stays true to traditional food from Southern Europe.
While overseeing operations at the hotel, Lyon developed the food program at DTLAs Soleto Trattoria and Pizza Bar. That effort especially reflected Lyon’s personal commitment to high-integrity cooking using fresh, local and sustainable ingredients — long a hallmark at Montrio.
“As a chef I’ve always been connected to the source, the fisher, the farmer, the markets — knowing them and their stories,” he said. “I’m a firm believer in sustainability. When something is well-cared for its entire life — from seed to harvest, the husbandry of an animal — we have an obligation to maintain this level of integrity all the way through to the plate.” These values align well with Montrio with a strong track record of being a Certified Green Restaurant and a member of Seafood Watch.
Lyon is joined on the Peninsula by his wife, designer and artist, Margarita, and their two children, ages 10 and 13.
It has long been the couple’s desire to settle in a smaller, quieter community along the coast. During his time as a chef in Los Angeles, Lyon commuted from Ojai near Santa Barbara.
“We essentially made a commitment to make a life for ourselves on the Central Coast,” he said. “We couldn’t be happier.”