The abridged tale of Gavin Kaysen:
Minnesota boy goes to New York. He becomes a very talented name chef, and then returns to Minnesota. He opens quite possibly the splashiest restaurant the Twin Cities have ever seen, and then starts working on another, this time in the picturesque city of Wayzata.
Unless you are the type of foodie who keeps a keen eye on the New York City dining world, you likely hadn’t heard the name Gavin Kaysen until about two years ago. Then, you couldn't stop hearing the name Gavin Kaysen. Gavin Kaysen was everywhere. Aside from Tim McKee and Steven Brown, who've been on the scene for decades, Kaysen probably has the most recognizable chef name in town.
Gavin Kaysen, Gavin Kaysen, Gavin Kaysen!
It was, unsurprisingly, too much hype to live up to. And at first bite, Kaysen's Spoon & Stable was largely billed as good, but not otherworldly good.
Now that it's gotten its footing, Spoon & Stable is by all accounts an excellent restaurant, one that hosts the world’s biggest names in food to raise vast amounts of money for charity. One where the chef sits as vice president of Bocuse d’Or, the world chef championships. One where quite literally the world’s finest chefs (Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, Grant Achatz) are just a phone call away.
Which brings me to what is probably the most important point about Gavin Kaysen and his impact on our dining scene: As he builds his second restaurant, Bellecour, a true classic French bistro, he’s got all those connections at his fingertips.
As he watches the construction of the front retail bakery area for pastry chef Diane Yang, our local high priestess of sugar, Kaysen can (and does) have her go to Thomas Keller’s Bouchon bakery in New York City and learn how the super, super big dogs do things. And then she can bring those tricks back to little old Minneapolis.
This is the really exciting part. Because if you want to book a ticket to New York to get a really proper French boulangerie Madeleine, or an eclair, or a slice of Opera cake, you can. But soon you'll only have to go to Wayzata because Bellecour will have all that.
The old Blue Point space on Lake Street is still a construction zone, but the projected opening date is March. Gavin is really fond of the space, having grown up near there. Though it's difficult to envision the place beyond the exposed beams and drywall, he can totally see it.
“It’s the polar opposite of Spoon,” he says of the design. Lots of chartreuse and amber and a big pink and purple mural on the east wall. Can you see it? Me neither. But it sounds cool.
Other design elements include an exposed kitchen, a chef’s table, and a big old bar for bar manager Robb Jones to do what he does best: classic cocktails done to precision. Longtime local wine director Nico Giraud will head up the vinos, which is cool because in addition to his grape knowledge he’s a true hospitality pro, “a dying breed” as Kaysen puts it.
As far as the menu is concerned, Kaysen is emphasizing French bistro classics, like foie gras terrine and escargot en croute, and dishes that “literally have three ingredients and must be of really high quality because we can’t hide behind anything.”
In this moment, they’re hiding behind a construction fence. But not for long. The kitchen equipment will be delivered on Monday. They’ve got a cookbook in the making due to be released next year. Bellecour is gonna be fancy. Not a pinball machine in sight.
As the local and national dining scene becomes ever more casual, Kaysen is sticking to what he knows. That is, what’s classic, French, and proper. He’s zigging when others are zagging. As we get to know this native son a little better, we can say with a little more confidence: “That’s Gavin Kaysen.”
The chef has a small restaurant empire on his mind, which will possibly expand regionally, and possibly even back to New York. But first things first: Bellecour opens in March.
739 Lake St E., Wayzata