Global culinary experience and a familial level of hospitality converged when Chef Gavin Kaysen opened his first venture, Spoon and Stable, in Minneapolis in November. Equally as impressive as the French-inspired fare, however, is the design that choreographs customers around three key focal points: the open kitchen, bar, and wine room.
Every seat in the house is centered around one of these three areas and benefits by seeing all three of them, says Tanya Spaulding, principal of marketing and design firm Shea, Inc., which developed the restaurant's identity and design. The 165-seat eatery also includes a private dining room for 40.
Chef Kaysen is a Minnesota native and has cooked in Switzerland, England, and California, and most recently in New York City as executive chef and director of culinary operations for Chef Daniel Boulud, his mentor. Spoon and Stable's design, then, was a convergence of Chef Kaysen's international experiences, as well as his passion for the region in which he grew up.
"[Chef] Gavin wanted it to be the highest-quality food but really feel like a neighborhood meeting place, as opposed to a high-end dining destination," Spaulding explains. "It's almost like opening your kitchen to entertain your friends, and that's really the highest level of hospitality you can achieve. So that became our inspiration."
Upon entering, the first point of contact for guests is the open kitchen, which sits in the middle of the dining room on a thrust stage, a theater fully integrated into the restaurant. Shea says Chef Kaysen came into the design process with an open kitchen already in mind, though he wasn't sure what shape it would take, whether it be a window into the kitchen or a fully open one.
With Spoon and Stable's kitchen, he got his wish; there is engagement and interaction between guests and the kitchen, and a handful of seats at the chef's counter even make guests feel like they're sitting inside the kitchen.
The bar is the second focal point, and its white shelving design is offset by an exposed brick wall and assortment of green, red, and honey-colored spirits sitting on the lower shelves. Warmth emanates from the bar, Spaulding says, thanks to the coalescence of colors and textures of the area—the bar is made of zinc—as well as the stacks of chopped wood on the upper shelves of the bar.
"Because it is a neighborhood meeting place, we wanted the bar to feel immediately welcoming and comfortable and be a glowing beacon in the space," Spaulding says. "It feels a little more every day, more hanging out in your friend's house."
The third focal point of the restaurant is the vertical glass wine room. Like the kitchen, the wine room also sits in the dining room. It has wooden shelves as well as a tall ladder to reach the ceiling-grazing wines. A temperature-controlled space, the wine room has a little table inside, so customers who order wine can go inside and peruse, and even taste their vintage of choice.
Every guest, Spaulding says, can sit near a different of the three elements, and each focal point tends to make an impression. In addition to the open kitchen, bar, and wine room, clusters of seating provide more options to guests, from lounge seating and booths to tables and banquet options.
In homage to Chef Kaysen's roots, local artisans contributed to the design; an artisan in Minneapolis created the lights, while the wood for the chef's counter is also from Minneapolis. The contrast of textures, from tile, wood, and metal to glass, iron, marble, and stainless steel, are meant to offer warmth and a rustic feel, Spaulding says.
In all, Chef Kaysen took over the space at the end of June and the restaurant was ready for training by Oct. 1.
"The design of the space is very understated and sophisticated, but it has that quality craftsmanship that came from a lot of local artisans we brought in to play," Spaulding says. "We had enough time to be thoughtful and go through all the right elements, and everyone was very pleased with the results."
By Sonya Chudgar