In 2014, Gavin Kaysen was conquering New York City. He’d won a Michelin star for his work as chef de cuisine of Café Boulud, and the James Beard Awards had dubbed him a Rising Star. Faced with imminent stardom, he took the next logical step: he moved with his wife and children back to his hometown of Minneapolis and opened his first restaurant, Spoon and Stable. It was a risk that reaped one of the biggest rewards a chef could earn: in 2018 Kaysen won a James Beard Award for Best Chef: Midwest.
Why ditch the Big Apple for the Twin Cities? It had something to do with Kaysen’s love for the frenetic, fleeting seasonality of the upper Midwest. "There's something to be said for how you feel emotionally as one season gives way to the next, when it snows, rains, or is sunny," Kaysen says. "I never thought about that growing up here, but coming back, I see that now."
At Spoon & Stable, Kaysen might match grilled carrots with a delicate tarragon cream sauce, or serve rainbow trout laced with the earthy punch of a black truffle vinaigrette, blending his hometown sensibility with the classical French training he's received over the past two decades. Starting in 2001, Kaysen worked at Domaine Chandon in Yountville, California; L'Auberge de Lavaux in Lausanne, Switzerland; and the famed L'Escargot in London before becoming executive chef at El Bizcocho in San Diego, where he was named one of Food & Wine's Best New Chefs.
Most of all, Kaysen credits Daniel Boulud, the godfather of French cuisine in New York City, for his culinary education. "It was like getting my Master's and Ph.D. with Daniel and his organization," he explains. "When he cooks, it’s all about spontaneity, which I have discovered is how I really thrive, too."
Now that he’s back in Minnesota, Kaysen also gravitates toward traditional Heartland dishes—the kind he grew up eating and cooking: "I love the classics. Starting with my grandmother, we always cooked very classical American dishes, like pot roast and chicken."
Kaysen's recipes for Panna are delicious updates of these standbys, including roast chicken with charred scallion vinaigrette and homemade waffles with berries. What we love about his dishes is that each one is infused with years of professional experience, while staying anchored to a love of simplicity and good ingredients.