We don't always cover news so far down south, but when it deals with El Bizcocho chef Gavin Kaysen, we make an exception. Yesterday's San Diego Union Tribune broke the news that 28-year-old, Cheeto-loving Iron Chef wannabe Gavin Kaysen, a Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2007, will take over the reins at Cafe Boulud in New York come November. He'll be picking up the pieces left behind by departing chef Betrand Chemel, who announced he was leaving to open his own restaurant just three days after he got three stars from Frank Bruni in the New York Times.
More people know about Kaysen now because of The Next Iron Chef, but he's made quite the impression on San Diego and beyond over the last few years. He took over El Bizcocho at the Rancho Bernardo Inn when he was just 24, only four years ago. The talent is pure: When we dined there last year, we told our table (and we think the GM) that he'd be gone in a year. Not that El Biz and the hotel aren't nice venues, but he was just too good. We just got off the phone with Kaysen and, after berating him for not hinting about this move last week when we chatted about the premiere of The Next Iron Chef, the guy is seriously stoked. And why wouldn't he be?
On San Diego: "San Diego and El Bizcocho have been unbelievable. I took over this restaurant when I was 24. It's a whole other ballgame when you become the chef. I treated it as if it was my own. I ran it as if it was mine. I was on the floor talking to guests, and I very much put my soul into the food. But I think when you do that, and people start to recognize it, you get exposure and different opportunities come forward. Everybody here is so happy for me. It was obviously a matter of time."
On Timing: "I was just waiting for the right opportunity to come my way. Everything just fell into place, and next thing I know, boom: We're moving to New York. I just can't wait. I'm really hungry for it. I feel really good about it. The timing is crazy. For the hotel, it's right before the holidays, and I'm going to NYC during the busiest time of year. No matter how I slice it's going to be a challenge. But chefs are adrenaline junkies. I'm ready for it."
On Daniel Boulud: "It's an incredible honor and amazing opportunity to be the chef for Daniel Boulud. He's someone I've drawn a lot of inspiration from and I've always looked up to as a business mentor, a chef mentor, and as a person. I mean, it's Daniel Boulud. Anyone who takes over his restaurants, it's quality."
On Iron Chef: "It's kind of a weird time, with Iron Chef out there now. If that wasn't out there, nobody would care much. Next week the challenges are based on simplicity and innovation, and that's all I can tell you. Last week I survived with that squid dessert, which I promise will not be on the menu at Café Boulud."
Now, if you haven't been to El Bizcocho and can't get to New York anytime soon, Kaysen will be cooking for the James Beard Foundation's Celebrity Chef Tour at the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel on October 24. Four courses with wine pairings for $150. Last chance, folks.
· Chef Change: Kayson Moves On [SD Union-Tribune]
· Gavin Kaysen, '07 Best New Chef, to Take Over at Cafe Boulud [Eater NY]
· Interview with Gavin Kaysen [Food & Wine]