FN Dish is counting down to the Season 3 premiere of Chopped All-Stars by introducing a competitor every day. Sixteen competitors including Food Network and Cooking Channel talent, renowned chefs, Chopped judges and celebrities are competing for a chance to win the title of All-Stars Champion and a $50,000 donation to charity. Watch the premiere on Sunday, April 7, at 9pm/8c and keep coming back to FN Dish for exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes previews.
Gavin Kaysen is the executive chef of Café Boulud in New York City. In 2007 he competed in the Bocuse d’Or International Cuisine Competition in France. Gavin has received several accolades, including having been named one of Food & Wine Magazine‘s 10 Best New Chefs (2007) and having received the James Beard Foundation’s 2008 Rising Star Chef award. But did you know Gavin’s first fine dining experience at 20 years old ended up changing his life? It influenced his decision to become a chef — otherwise, he might have been a storm chaser. Find out more about Gavin in his Q&A below.
What’s your Achilles’ heel ingredient, one that you hate to work with or encounter in someone else’s dish?
Gavin Kaysen: Okra — I find the texture off and although it is good fried and made very well in the South, I still have yet to find a real appreciation for it.
What dish or ingredient will we never catch you eating?
GK: I will eat anything, but if I had to say, I would like to avoid the large Japanese oysters — they are too big for my liking.
What was your most memorable meal? What, where, who? Details, please.
GK: So many but if I had to choose one, it would be the first meal I had at The French Laundry. I was 20 years old and with my parents and had never been to a fine dining restaurant before in my life. My roommate happened to work there, and I asked if we could “stop by” for lunch and she politely let me know that it may be tough to get me in but she pulled it off. What blew me away was I had no expectation or understanding of what I was eating; all I knew is that I was having one of those experiences where my life changed in front of me. I will never forget walking to the back of the kitchen to thank the chef, not knowing who the chef was, a gentleman named Thomas Keller. I thanked him and explained that I was living in Napa for six months for an internship at Domaine Chandon. He wished me luck and showed me around the kitchen. Fast forward to today and Chef Keller and I work closely with the Bocuse d’Or USA Foundation — a full circle moment in my culinary career.
What’s your guilty pleasure food?
GK: Rice Krispies Bars.
Is there one dish that you always order out and never make at home?
GK: I order from Cascabel Taqueria near my house often. It is the best Mexican food I can find on the Upper East Side.
What kitchen tool can’t you live without?
GK: A spoon.
If you weren’t in food, what career would you like to have tried?
GK: I always thought I would be a storm chaser or into weather somehow. I love the way the sky looks during those stages.
What’s your favorite “food city” to visit?
GK: Being in NYC you get spoiled by all of the great places there, but I would say that my two favorite cities to eat in right now are Chicago and San Francisco.
What’s your favorite late-night snack?
What’s one must-have at your last supper?
GK: Good company.
Who’s your favorite person to cook with?
GK: My 3-year-old son, Emile. My 1-year-old is still a little too small, but he sits in a chair to watch daddy cook.
Rapid fire: Think fast!
Ketchup or mustard? Ketchup
Chocolate or vanilla? Vanilla
Coffee or tea? Coffee
Burger or hot dog? Burger
Cream cheese or butter? Butter
Soda or water? Water
Sprinkles or jimmies? What is a jimmie? In which case, sprinkles?
Gavin is competing for Children’s Cancer Research Fund.