The gossip around Minneapolis this summer is all about Gavin Kaysen, formerly the executive chef at Café Boulud, a Food and Wine Top New Chef, a James Beard Rising Star, and a son of Bloomington, Minnesota, and his recently-announced Minneapolis restaurant. (Did you hear Thomas Keller will be at the opening party . . . psst-psst-psst?)
I talked to Gavin this morning and he confirmed these bits of, to this point, speculation:
1). The address of 211 N. First St.
The lease is signed, the keys have changed hands and lo and behold the rumors are true: Merchant is going across the street from Bachelor Farmer! Remember when Bachelor Farmer seemed like it was in such a way-back corner of the city? Well, get ready for that weird parking lot by the river to be the home to not just many of, but all of, the fanciest cars in town. Merchant will be located in the one-time horse stables of 211 N. First St. Kaysen says the space is pretty cool, with 23-foot ceilings in places, (the former hay loft is gone,) and a massive 98-foot long skylight. The space is 6,400 square feet, contains some of the original steampunk-era doors, which will be used as decorative elements, and is going to have some sort of front garage doors that will tilt up to create a running inside/outside patio space connecting the sidewalks out front to the lounge inside. And if you’re in the mood to handicap 2015 Midwest James Beard nominations, you can guess that there will be an effective tug of war for the medallion right across First Street, between Bachelor Farmer and Merchant. Oooh! Imaginary foodie tug of war!
2). Bill Summerville will be the GM.
We saw this coming, right? Bill Summerville, legendary sommelier and partner at La Belle Vie will be the full fledged general manager of Merchant. That’ll be a leg up for Merchant on knowing who the bigwigs are who come through the front door, for sure. Though it’s also a mighty blow to America’s sweetheart, zinfandel wine, whom Summerville has vowed to chase down across flowered meadows and slash to death with his well-sharpened hook. I mean, to take it out of insider wine jargon, he’s not crazy about zinfandel.
3). The target opening date is November.
As all Minnesotans know, November is the great month of the deer hunting firearm season, and Kaysen says it remains his target opening date. Will there be delays pushing the open way into crow hunting season? Only time will tell. (P.S. If you’re a crow hunter please post in the comments what the hell you do with them. Pie? One blackbird baked in a pie?)
There's also some reliable info that Kaysen can neither confirm nor deny . . .
I have it on multiple good sources—which Gavin Kaysen declined to confirm—that Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, and even Jerome Bocuse number among the Merchant investors. How’s that for the biggest of the bigwigs? Who are we missing? Julia Child and Craig Claiborne, floating in from beyond the grave for family-style platters of chef-made comforts?
I repeat, it’s unconfirmed but, well, I think I’m right. Am I? Only time will tell. Start watching the airports for the biggest of the big chefs people, it’s shaping up to be a hell of a fall.
@MerchantMN, 211 N. 1st St., Mpls.