It’s no secret that Minneapolis is home to a burgeoning food scene. James Beard award–winner Gavin Kaysen is working to ensure chefs from the area have the experience and training needed to be recognized for years to come. Along with owning restaurants Spoon and Stable, Demi and Bellecour, Kaysen is a founding mentor in the Ment’or BKB Foundation, a nonprofit that helps young chefs bolster their skills through unique experiences, named for the initials of the leaders of the group’s board of directors: chefs Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller and Jérôme Bocuse.
“The idea of the program is giving back to young chefs, finding opportunities for them that they otherwise would not be able to find,” says Kaysen. Founded in 2014, the program connects aspiring chefs with mentors around the country and abroad, inviting them into their mentors' kitchens to learn new techniques and experience food culture outside of their home locations. This year’s recipients include three local young chefs: Alexandra Motz of Spoon and Stable in Minneapolis, Joatta Siebert of the Travail Collective’s Pig Ate My Pizza in Robbinsdale and Stuart Sandquist, formerly of Bellecour, who recently moved to Nashville and works at Henrietta Red.
“I hope to travel and see how restaurants in other countries work with their farmers,” says Motz, who works as a pastry sous chef. “I’m very excited to learn different cuisines and then bring that back to my team.” Motz enjoys making ice cream, macarons and anything candy-related. She became interested in cake decorating when she was a junior in high school. Her first job in the food world was as a pizza cook in her home town.
Stuart Sandquist (Photo courtesy of Samantha Hearn)
Sandquist began his career in food “like a true Wisconsin boy” as a cheesemonger, he says. He looks forward to learning about himself. “[It’s a] chance to go out of my comfort zone professionally and personally, not only ... to learn in a kitchen that's unfamiliar, but striving to live in a city or country I’ve never even visited before,” says Sandquist.
“My current role is chef de partie, a cook responsible for a particular station, and therefore particular dishes. My station is called entremettier, a vegetable and sides-based station,” says Sandquist.
Joatta Siebert (Photo courtesy of Sarah Julson)
Siebert hopes to gain perspective and inspiration from the program. “I'm going to ... learn so much just being in a kitchen of such high caliber,” she says. Her first industry role was at Souris River Brewing, but she believes her true culinary journey began at Travail. She is a chef du partie/tournant [a floating or relief chef] and currently works on Pig Ate My Pizza’s Brewers tasting menu.
Kaysen says giving back to young chefs is important because of the guidance he has received during his own career. His main mentor has been chef Daniel Boulud, owner of a three Michelin–star restaurant and chairman of the BKB Foundation board. Kaysen says he has learned the power of hospitality from Boulud on a trip to France. “I went to drop off ... equipment and he told me I should [go] to his parents' house and keep it in their barn. I met his dad and he invited me in for a cup of coffee, which turned into appetizers, which turned into lunch, to a couple bottles of wine, and we had this incredible time together,” says Kaysen. “It made me realize ... where his generosity came from. All that was wanted in return was a genuine response and a genuine thank you.”
The Ment’or BKB Foundation is about sharing this sense of hospitality and generosity between chefs, whether experienced or just starting out. Kaysen says, “For our generation, the question is what are we going to ... build, and what are we going to leave for the ones who follow."