Gavin Kaysen's Merchant may be getting top chef backing

Chef Gavin Kaysen may have some big time backers for his new North Loop restaurant
Chef Gavin Kaysen may have some big time backers for his new North Loop restaurant
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The rumor mill is abuzz with news of James Beard Rising Star and Bloomington native Gavin Kaysen and his homecoming restaurant, Merchant. On her blog, Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl says she has it from "multiple good sources" that the money for Kaysen's new Twin Cities venture is coming in from some of the industry's crème de la crème, including Kaysen's former boss Daniel Boulud.

In addition to Boulud, Dara also lists Thomas Keller of the French Laundry and Jérôme Bocuse, son of legendary French chef Paul Bocuse, as possible, if not likely, investors. If this is true, some bigger name chefs might be testing the waters here in the Twin Cities.

See also: Gavin Kaysen of Cafe Boulud to leave New York City for... Minneapolis?

In a recent interview with USA Today, Kaysen's old boss, Daniel Boulud, says, "I love Minneapolis. Gavin Kaysen, the chef de cuisine at Café Boulud -- our previous chef de cuisine -- went back home to Minneapolis and while Minneapolis has been on the map, I think Gavin's going to make a statement of his arrival there."

Kaysen, a Minnesota native, is currently best known for his role as chef de cuisine at New York's illustrious Cafe Boulud, but back in March we learned that Kaysen was coming back to fly-over country with big plans for the Twin Cities culinary scene. Since then we've learned a few more things about Kaysen's master plans including the name of the restaurant, Merchant, a potential North Loop location, and that he plans on serving family style comfort food.

Dara has also confirmed a few other rumors which include the official address for the location, 211 N. First St. directly across the street from the Bachelor Farmer. Bill Summerville, formally of La Belle Vie will be Merchant's new General Manager, and the goal is to open sometime in November of this year.

For those who have been around a while, this isn't the first time a few big-shot chefs have given the Twin Cities a test drive. In 1999, Aquavit opened its doors in the IDS tower under the watchful eye of New York executive chef Marcus Samuelsson. In 2007, New York Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten opened Chambers Kitchen, and in 2005 the notorious Wolfgang Puck opened his illustrious 20.21. Of course all of these restaurants have since shuttered, but the dining scene now isn't what it was then, and of course none of those big name chefs was actually here manning their ventures.

Kaysen and his potential posse of top-chef backers should fare better in the Twin Cities than the past band of celebrity chefs, especially since Kaysen is already familiar with the playing field. In addition to having a home field advantage, the collective palate of the Twin Cities has grown rapidly in the last few years, paving the way for a variety of culinary trailblazers. Consider us giddy with anticipation.

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