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24 Hours in St. Paul
By: Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl | Posted: 03/31/2014
On Friday, Mpls.St.Paul Magazine’s own Andrew Zimmern broke the news to the world that hometown hero Gavin Kaysen—Michelin star-holder, James Beard rising star chef, cooking competition Bocuse d’Or coach, and protége of superstar chef Daniel Bouloud—was coming home. Where was Kaysen at the time? On the phone with his boss: “I was actually on the phone with Daniel, we thought no one in the world knew. He said: Andrew just told the world. I said: What? He said it’s okay, it will be okay. Within five minutes he sent a press release to Florence Fabricante,” at the New York Times. “We had spoken at length about the transition, how I was going to do it. I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal. But he knew better.”
And big deal it is: Gavin Kaysen is planning to open a 6,000 square foot restaurant in the North Loop of Minneapolis sometime before Christmas. Why Minneapolis? I asked Kaysen on the phone earlier today. “Shock value,” he deadpanned, proving that he really is still a Minnesotan. But really. Turns out that Kaysen has kept Minneapolis close to his heart all his years in New York—he returned to town to cook charity dinners at the side of Russell Klein, Andrew Zimmern, Tim McKee, and Alex Roberts, his wedding reception was cooked by Vincent Francoual and Ferris Schiffer at the Minikhada Club, and he kept in touch with Minneapolis restaurants in a way that convinced him that it would be possible to build a career in Minnesota greater than the one he has heretofore achieved.
By the transitive property of deductive reasoning that means, well, we could have a Michelin star in Minnesota?
Yes, Kaysen says. Why not? “Anybody can open up these restaurants in different cities and push themselves to be successful,” he explained to me. “It’s all what you make it. I have a set of goals I’m going to go after, which will allow me to achieve more than I have achieved. Anybody can open up restaurants in different cities and push themselves to be successful. I don’t think it’s really worth not having a set of goals. To me, the awards and everything you win is just a celebration of yesterday, to achieve anything you need to set your goals, and work to achieve them.” But really? Here in Minnesota? “I don’t think success and achieving goals is geographically bound.”
And, there you have it folks. Also, he’s been discussing this plan with Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud and stuff so: They know we’re out here. It’s positively nervewracking. Everyone start raking, pick up the trash in the alleys, commence spiffing up the joint, they might drop by unannounced.
So, what’s the plan to get a Michelin star in Minnesota? Kaysen is keeping a bunch of it on the down-low, but told me some part involves his grandma Dorothy’s meatloaf.
For real. Some part of the new spot, to be called Merchant, will be ‘large format dining’, that is, platters to share family style. “You do know people will compare you to Buca, or as we say, Buca’s, right?” I asked. “I’m fine with that,” he said, explaining that the large-format platters will derive inspiration from his grandmother Dorothy. “Dorothy’s Dinners—it’s not driven by what she cooked and what she made, but inspired by her. She had great meatloaf recipes, great pot roast recipes, we might have that, or a BBQ night, a whole rack of veal or lamb, a platter of fried chicken.” For the record, at Café Boulud Kaysen served platters of fried chicken with baked beans, mashed potatoes, cole slaw, and a compressed watermelon salad and reports that the chickens ‘flew out the door.’ Ba dum sha! Tip your server folks, we’ll be here all week.
Or rather, I’m already here, and Gavin Kaysen will be here in time to make your next Christmas more diverting. Will the Michelin inspectors, World’s 50 Best Restaurant inspectors, etc. follow? Keep your eyes riveted to this channel for further updates. Till then: Pick up your dry cleaning and get your hair did, you really never know who’s going to be dropping by.
Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl is a senior editor at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine.See bio
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