"I go to the Spotted Pig maybe two or three times a month."Photo: Melissa Hom
Gavin Kaysen cooked all over the country and in Switzerland and in London under Marco Pierre White before becoming the executive chef at Café Boulud last year. Even working for one of his heroes Daniel Boulud, he was unsure whether he had made the right call. “Whenever you take a risk moving from one place to another, especially New York City,” he told us, “you always question if it’s the right move.” Any doubt about that evaporated when he won the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef of the Year Award last week. “I was blown away,” he says. We asked Kaysen how he ate and drank his way through this week of celebrations.
Friday, June 6
After service I went to Bon Appétit’s Chef’s Night Out party, but too late to catch any of the food. Our next stop was the Spotted Pig where we had half the menu: crispy prosciutto, salads, grilled sausage, a few dozen oysters, some very good seared lamb’s heart and chicken-liver toasts, and a couple of bottles of wine. April Bloomfield and I won Food & Wine’s Best New Chef together, so she and I have a special friendship. I go to the Spotted Pig maybe two or three times a month.
When I finally made my way upstairs and heard Daniel’s voice across the room, I knew it was going to be a long night. I got swept up in a group that made its way to Florent. Daniel got past the beefy bouncer at the door. There were no tables, but somehow he commandeered three and put them together in the back by the kitchen. It was cheeseburgers and fries for about sixteen of us, washed down with red wine that we were drinking out of coffee mugs. It was great — it was such an honor to get in. I’m sad to see it go.
Saturday, June 7
My first and last real meal of the day was family meal in the kitchen around 4 p.m.: Chicago-style chili dogs. Our prep team cooks that every day — there’s always something different. When we’re constructing new dishes, I never eat family meal because all day I’m eating what we’re cooking. And I taste a lot of the food that goes out to the dining room every day — everything I can get my paws on. I’m jumping and floating everywhere, tasting the food, helping plate, whatever. Around 2 a.m., after service, I had Cheetos and red wine. You can’t go wrong with Cheetos.
Sunday, June 8
I started the day with my family for Reuben sandwiches at Junior’s in midtown. My Beard Awards odyssey began around 3 p.m. at Momofuku. A bunch of us got together with David Chang in the party bus he had waiting. It was wild. There was a lot of liquid, that’s for sure — a lot of beer, Champagne, stripper polls, you name it. I had too many butterflies and a natural buzz on to drink at that point.
We detoured to Daisy May’s. Adam Perry had three whole smoked baby pigs waiting. The key accessory was the rubber gloves so we could dig in to the pig with our hands. There were awesome sides: coleslaw and baked beans — and BBQ beef brisket.
It was an amazing honor to win the Beard Award. Post-awards, my first stop was downstairs at Bar Boulud. I got the works from the charcuterie bar: head cheese, beef, cheek terrine, pâté, jambon de Paris. Daniel Johnnes, our wine director, broke out a Salmanazar (nine-liter) of Champagne Pommery 1989 and a Methuselah (six-liter) of Nuits Saint Georges “Clos de la Marechal” 2004.
Next stop was Eleven Madison Park. I grabbed some pizza from a tray that flew by me and a little more Champagne. Then I headed to Gramercy to toast Michael Anthony with a little more Champagne. I was famished at this point so on to Blue Ribbon with my wife, Linda; brother Sean; John, the maitre d’ from Café Boulud; and a few friends in tow. The menu consisted of fried oysters, salt-and-pepper shrimp, fried chicken, marrow bones, and smoked duck courtesy of the house. I hit the pillow by 4 a.m.
Monday, June 9
I woke up way too late for breakfast. Family meal at the restaurant was a tuna melt with aged white Cheddar. I had some samples from Kerry Gold. After service, I had oysters and Australian Riesling at Atlantic Grill in my hood. The oysters were perfect — we were in the mood for something very light.
Tuesday, June 10
Every day for breakfast I have a bagel and three espressos and a 1,000-milligram vitamin. I’m usually up by 8:30 a.m. I get on the e-mail for about an hour, and then I get into work as soon as possible. Family meal was spaghetti and meatballs. I’m usually gone [from work for the day] between 11:30 p.m. and 2 a.m. After service at home with my wife, I had popcorn with white-Cheddar powder.
Wednesday, June 11
I had an apple, a bagel, espresso, and vitamin C. I missed the 4 p.m. family meal. Around 6 p.m. I wolfed down the spring-green salad with putanesca sauce before service. After service I went to Daniel to see D.B. to celebrate Beard Awards … again. We shared a cheese plate: St. Marcelin, Comté, Livarot, and then some petits fours.
Thursday, June 12
Daniel and I are doing a dinner for the Beard House. We just went to the deli around the corner and bought some sandwiches for family meal.