After Switzerland, Kaysen continued learning in London at the Michelin-starred L'Escargot under Marco Pierre White. In 2002, he returned to the United States and began working under chef Patrick Ponsaty at El Bizcocho. The following year he represented the United States at the International Trophy of Cuisine and Pastry in Paris, finishing first in the fish category and third overall. When Ponsaty departed about a year ago, Kaysen was promoted to executive chef.

"But I'm still on the line every night," he says, "sweating it out with my guys. I do it because I love to cook, and when I'm there it's easier for them to produce the dishes that I have in my mind."

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cantab Jan. 14, 2009 @ 2:21 p.m.

Gavin Kaysen is long gone, to be a celebrity in New York now. Justification for five stars may be long gone also.

El Bizcocho now has a new chef who is a fervent proponent of molecular gastronomy. We went for restaurant week in January 2009. The outcome is underwhelming. One dish supposedly had "foie gras powder" but this was undetectable. In Bananas Foster, the bananas are converted into a thin syrup. This tasted vaguely of caramel and that's all.

On a nonmolecular level, the menu tries hard to be original, but without much point. For example, one main dish is "duck chop." Gee, yes, you won't get see that on a menu anywhere else. But what is it in reality? Just a duck breast with some bone attached. The downside of including the bone is that the traditional presentation of contrasting crispy skin, melt-in-your mouth fat, and rare flesh goes missing.

The kitchen is no doubt excellent at technique, classical and modern, but the basics are sometimes forgotten. Butter was at the right temperature, but tasted stale. Cured sashimi had interesting flavors, but all were overpowered by salt.

All in all, the molecular tricks come at the expense of sensuousness, and the elaborate preparations obscure the true nature of the ingredients.

Portions were tiny, appropriate for a tasting menu but not for a three course dinner.

Service was friendly and welcoming, but not sensitive. After telling us that we could continue talking as long as we wanted (not so directly!) the waiter came for the bill before we had laid down our credit card.


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