You introduced the Synergy Series back in 2015. What was the inspiration behind it?
Kaysen: It has always been about bringing my friends, and their talents, to my hometown. I admit, I get to show them off here and I get to show off the talent that is here to them. While guest chef events are fun for culinary professionals, the most exciting part is getting to see a new city that maybe you have not seen before, and to explore the community and the food scene there. I love that these visiting chefs can see and experience some of the Minneapolis culinary scene during their visit. This is what it’s about for me in addition to having our teams interact and learn from some of the best talents in our profession. Not everyone has the means to travel, stage, and eat around the globe. The Synergy Series brings the chefs here so our cooks, our service team, and our bar team can take that all in. And so our community has the chance to experience some of the country’s best culinary talents in their own backyard.
Any highlights or most memorable moments from over the years?
Kaysen: There are so many! Having my mentor Daniel Boulud here was of course very memorable. There was not a better way for me to thank him and honor him than to have him here to cook with my team. It was a full circle moment that I will always cherish.
You have some amazing chefs on the roster for this year including Thomas Keller and Missy Robbins. What makes a Synergy Chef?
Kaysen: Usually it is the chef who says yes to my text first! There is a lot of thought in terms of cuisines, area of the country, etc. I also think about who my team could learn from and who the dining community here will connect with. Every chef and their team approaches the work a little bit differently. But honestly, I ask about 8-12 chefs every year and the ones who can do it, we move forward. It usually works out!
“Not everyone has the means to travel, stage, and eat around the globe. The Synergy Series brings the chefs here.”
Kaysen: I have known Jose Andres for many years and watching what he has done is inspiring to say the least, so any small part we can play in supporting his mission, I am grateful. This year, 100% of the proceeds from the dialogues will go to support Appetite for Change, which is a local charity that I have had the pleasure of serving for many years. I was on their board the first three years that I lived here and they made such an impact on me and my daily thinking that I try to give back to them as much as I can. This is on their website and there is no better way to say it: “We believe food is the key ingredient to nourishing wellbeing. Systemic barriers make accessing fresh food in North Minneapolis a challenge for many. Through youth and workforce development programs, social enterprises, and policy initiatives, we build community capacity to engage with the food system in a fresh and sustainable way.”
What topics are you covering in the Dialogues?
Kaysen: Alison Arth from Salt & Roe will be conducting the dialogues. She will be taking on all sorts of topics from lessons in leadership, to how the chefs have grown as business owners and creative professionals, to where they think hospitality is headed in the future. The goal is for the audience to learn something from each of our visiting chefs, just as our internal team gets the opportunity to do so. Anyone who reserves a ticket on Tock can also submit a question for consideration. We hope to hear from all of our guests to make this a really dynamic talk.
How has the series evolved over the years?
Kaysen: The Synergy Series has raised more than $150,000 for local charities since we first started in 2015. It has helped our team grow together and it has created friendships and contacts that we will have for a lifetime; the growth is forever moving. We’re always trying to make it a better experience for our team and for our community, and its evolution reflects that. The dialogue is our newest addition. It’s a way for us to share more from these chefs with our hospitality community and all of our guests who want to hear their stories. We made it virtual so anyone who wasn’t able to travel here, can be part of the experience.