Chef Gavin Kaysen’s Guide to French Food

Courtesy Spoon and Stable

The Minneapolis chef and mentor to the U.S. team at the Bocuse d’Or shares his favorite French restaurants at home and abroad.

One of the biggest influences on Minneapolis-based chef Gavin Kaysen’s cooking might be a city 4,000 miles away. Kaysen, who made a name for himself working under Daniel Boulud for many years before moving back to his hometown to open the widely acclaimed restaurant Spoon and Stable in 2014, is forever tethered to Lyon, France. After all, two of the chefs who have inspired him most in his career, Boulud and Paul Bocuse, both hail from the city. And it’s also a place he returns to again and again as a member of the American team that competes in the Bocuse d’Or—a prestigious culinary competition that’s often referred to as the Olympics of cooking. Since joining in 2007, Kaysen has helped guide the team from a spot barely on the scoreboards to a silver medal in 2015. (Update: On January 25, 2017, Team USA won their first gold medal in the competition.)

This year, just as Kaysen heads to back to the city as Team USA’s Vice President, he’ll also be putting the final touches on a Lyon-inspired project at home: his newest restaurant, Bellecour, which is set to open in March and is named after the French city’s famous pedestrian square.

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“Bellecour is not going to be all Lyonnaise cooking—it’s just going to be French,” he says. Still, he’s quick to acknowledge his roots. “[The name] is sort of a way for me to pay a tribute to my French mentors who have taught me how to cook and how to be a chef and what that has meant for me and my career and my life,” he says. “It’s really in honor of both those gentlemen.”

Ahead of his trip, Kaysen shared with us the restaurants he’s most excited to visit while in Lyon, plus the French restaurants he loves to frequent stateside.


Courtesy Prochasson Frederic / Getty Images

In Lyon

Le Comptoir du Vin: "There are two restaurants I go to every time I’m in Lyon; one is Le Comptoir du Vin. The beef tartare here is epic. Many people do it well, but chef Daniel Perrier just seems to get it right every time. It’s one of the most delicious steak tartares I’ve ever had." 2 Rue Belfort, Lyon, France; 33-4/78-39-89-95.

Le Bouchon des Filles: "This is another great place I’ve been to twice now; the first time I went here I ate with Bill Buford when he was living in Lyon. It’s owned by three women who make the entire experience memorable every time. It’s this tiny bouchon; it can’t have more than 35 seats, honestly. Everything’s done in a prix-fixe setting. The lentils are a standout dish for me." 20 Rue Sergent Blandan Ancienne Voie du Rhin, Lyon, France; 33-4/78-30-40-44.

Le Suprême: "The owner is a good friend of mine named Greg, he was the executive sous at Daniel when I was the chef at Café Boulud, so we worked together for many years. He moved back home and opened this restaurant. Although I haven’t been yet, I’m looking forward to my first meal there; he’s just such a talented guy." 106 Cours Gambetta, Lyon, France; 33-4/78-72-32-68.

L'Auberge du Pont de Collonges (Restaurant Paul Bocuse): "This is the classic I will always dream of when I think about what French cuisine means. It is truly a craft there, not a passion or just a hobby, a craft, and they are doing things that you only read about in old cookbooks. The icon of all chefs, Paul Bocuse, is still running the restaurant. I’ve had so many special meals there." 50 Rue de la Plage, Collonges-au-Mont-d'Or, France; 33-4/72-42-90-90.


Courtesy Noah Fecks

In the United States

Bouchon: "Stateside, one of my favorite classic bistros is Bouchon in Yountville. I just love the feeling of the space and how he’s been able to capture all the different parts of France and what that means. I love the simplicity of the food, even though I know it is not simple. I also love that they stick with the classics—that is hard to do. As a chef, you always want to change something, tweak it or add to it, but they stay true to the dishes themselves, and that alone is inspiring." 6534 Washington St, Yountville, CA; 707-944-8037; thomaskeller.com.

Le Coucou: "I recently went to Le Coucou in New York and it was really great—the space was stunning, and it felt to me like a rebirth of French food in NYC. He [chef Daniel Rose] has a great cannelle de brochette which is really Lyonnaise. That was a great meal. I really enjoyed my time there. It just hit all the right chords for me." 138 Lafayette St., New York, NY; (212) 271-4252; lecoucou.com.

Lafayette: "I really love Andrew [Carmellini]’s food; and when he cooks French food it’s just delicious. The roasted duck breast that I had was really great. I often look up to Andrew Carmellini and what he has accomplished since leaving Cafe Boulud. I walked into the place after that, and there was always a lot to live up to. I love the combination of the bakery and the restaurant in this space." 380 Lafayette St., New York, NY; 212-533-3000; lafayetteny.com.

Daniel: "What I would compare to a Bocuse but stateside would be Restaurant Daniel. Go and get his duck à la presse, that brings you straight back to France. My mentor, Daniel Boulud, built this restaurant from a dream, first on 76th Street, then moved it to 65th and Park. The sacrifice, the drive, the effortless push to be better every day and create a service that is memorable for so many people is so inspiring. This is Mount Rushmore for me." 60 E. 65th St, New York, NY; 212-288-0033; danielnyc.com.