The Art of Eating & Drinking: Chef Gavin Kaysen

The Art of Eating & Drinking: Chef Gavin Kaysen

James Beard Award-winning chef Gavin Kaysen runs an empire of restaurants and cafes in Minneapolis, including the renowned Spoon and Stable, Demi and Mara. He is also the president of the ment’or BKB Foundation, which trains Team USA for the prestigious Bocuse d’Or culinary competition in Lyon, France.

The Flaviar Times editor-in-chief Noah Rothbaum interviewed Chef Kaysen about pairing drinks with food.

Should food be paired with mixed drinks or spirits?

Gavin: I’d say mixed drinks. In a beverage with more than one element, you can manipulate the sweet, salty, acid in the same way you do with food. Treat everything as an ingredient that’s going to complement and enhance the experience for the liquid and the snacks.

Chef Gavin Kaysen Photo Courtesy Libby Anderson

What’s your personal pairing philosophy?

Gavin: Let each individual ingredient shine. At Demi, the philosophy is you want each element (beverage and cuisine) to play an equally important role in the experience. We create an arc of acidity and sweetness considering how flavor profiles sync up without one outshining another. We also want to give people a little something unexpected. We play with sake, beer, N/A, and other unexpected offerings to keep curiosity high during the meal.

Your award-winning Minneapolis restaurant Spoon and Stable offers an incredible dessert menu with suggested drinks. What’s your favorite pairing from the list?

Gavin: The Amaretto Sour with Honey & Cream Cake. The sweetness of the cake serves as a complementary contrast to the bright, punchy flavors of the Amaretto Sour.

What’s your all-time favorite drink & food pairing?

Gavin: Champagne and potato chips! The salty crunch of the chip paired with a dry Champagne is the perfect pairing.

Is there a food and drink pairing that shouldn’t work but does?

Gavin: At Mara, Adam [Witherspoon] had the idea of incorporating a jello shot made out of the cocktail base and a grapefruit and black tea tisane that is poured into the skin of an orange as a garnish to one of the cocktails. This mashup shouldn’t work but Adam created it in a way that’s elevated and unexpected. Guests are loving it.

Dinner at Mara

We’re eating some classic Minnesota hot dish, what are we drinking?

Gavin: The local whiskey scene is up and coming and right now I love Brother Justus. They gave me a bottle when I opened Mara. It’s made using barley grown in the Eastern Great Plains and Northwestern Minnesota and conveys a strong sense of place.

If you had to, what food would you pair with a Piña Colada?

Gavin: That’s a tough one…but If I had to pick I would say snapper ceviche with peppers, avocado and coconut shards. It all comes back to the balance of flavors.

The Art of Eating & Drinking features chefs from around the world sharing their personal philosophies on pairing cocktails and Spirits with food.

*This interview has been edited & condensed

*Cover image credit: Roy Son

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