Native Son Gavin Kaysen Brings Culinary Star Power to Minneapolis
It’s been a long road home for Gavin Kaysen. Schooled in New England, he went on to make a name for himself on both coasts, earn the James Beard Rising Star Chef Award and a Michelin star, and work with the “who’s who” of the culinary industry.
But for Minnesotans craving a taste of culinary greatness, Kaysen’s best move was a return to Minneapolis in 2014 to open Spoon and Stable, which nabbed him his second James Beard Award for Best Chef Midwest. The wisdom he collected along the way has less to do with the art of cooking—though the multi-award winner clearly learned his lessons well—and everything to do with hospitality and community.
“We’re in the people business, not the food business,” maintains Kaysen. “A restaurant has to find its own voice, defined not only by chefs, but what guests want to eat. We’re here to create memories for our guests.”
Maybe not what you expect to hear from a superstar chef, but as the guiding philosophy of the near-legendary Daniel Boulud, Kaysen’s former employer, it resonated soul-deep. His seven-year stint at New York’s famed Café Boulud, which he affectionately refers to as earning his “master’s and PhD,” has played an enormously influential role in the success of Spoon and Stable and his second restaurant, Bellecour.
“Hospitality is tough to practice on a daily basis, because it needs to be genuine.” He reflects on his a-ha moment in 2009 at Boulud’s parent’s farm in France.
“Daniel wasn’t there, and I was going to drop off equipment and leave. His father came out to introduce himself and offered me a cup of coffee, which led to a two-and-a-half hour lunch…the whole afternoon was magical. I felt the truest sense of home and hospitality, and I understood where Daniel learned to inspire us.”
To Kaysen, Spoon and Stable became not about creating another restaurant, but another home, which he meticulously designed from the start. He loved the soaring ceilings, open space and abundant daylight of the vintage carriage house at 211 North First Street, and transformed it into a chic, cozy eatery. He crafted a menu focused on Minnesota’s native foods, such as an heirloom tomato tart topped with pickled herring.
And he never loses sight of his mission, which is why guests celebrating an occasion are surprised with a huge pouf of cotton candy. “It’s a great way,” he says, “to create a moment and a memory.”