6 Questions with Gavin Kaysen

What’s exciting to you right now in the world of cooking?

I love to see how easy it is to share and see what others are doing. I feel like it is making our world of food a stronger community. Food is about bringing people together at a table. My challenge to everyone is, what is that majestic moment that you can bring to that table.

Where do you get your inspiration for the dishes at Spoon and Stable and Bellecour?

Inspiration comes from everything. The food at Spoon and Stable I’d consider modern American, and the food we serve at Bellecour I’d consider very much French and very much a part of my heart. Even though I grew up an Irish American, I think, you know, I’m actually French.

What goes into a meal?

When we’re thinking about a dish, we’re not just thinking about the food. We’re thinking about the aesthetics of the plating, we’re thinking about how the guest is going to eat it, about what sort of memory it might invoke for them. Because for me, while food should be a delicious experience, we try to figure out a way to make it a soulful experience. By doing so, we have to be more creative with our thought process, so we take inspiration from everywhere.

How did you get into food?

I actually started baking, not cooking. I started when I was 7 years old with my grandmother, Dorothy, and there’s a lot of influence throughout the restaurants that are based on Dorothy. I really just sort of fell in love with the idea of pleasing people; I found it to be simple to know that a few ingredients and putting food on a table can really just surround a home with warmth and a great feeling.

But you really got your start as a sandwich artist at Subway?

Ha! Sure. I had a gentleman come in, his name is George Serra—he lives in Minnesota and he now eats in my restaurant every single Wednesday at 6pm. And he came into Subway every Saturday and ordered this 4-inch tuna fish sandwich on a round bun. He’d walk in, order it, walk out, and throw it away. Every time. And I said, ‘George, I don’t understand why you’re doing that.’ And he said ‘I’m just watching you with a guest.’ He was studying me, and recognized I had this hospitality niche inside of me, and he hired me at his restaurant next door. But I’m a certified sandwich artist—I still have the certificate!

Why did you decide to move back home to Minneapolis?

You know, I spent 8 or 9 years with Daniel Boulud in New York. And I love him, he’s my mentor, and it was one of the best experiences in my life for my cooking career. But it was also a time for me to sit back and reflect and say, ‘okay, I’m 36 years old, what I want to do next, and what do I want to do that’s impactful for this industry?’ And by going back home, my wife and I can watch our children grown up with their grandparents and be around family. That had a lot of impact on my decision.