Kaysen, formerly chef at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego, answered without hesitation.
“I started cooking with my grandma when I was about 7 years old,” he began, adding that his mother, father, and other grandmother never cooked at all. “We always had a great time in the kitchen,” he went on, citing the cakes and cookies and meatloaf that he and grandma made together.
“But the best part of it all was that she let me say ‘shit’ when we were working together. You know, if I dropped something or the cookies burned, I could say ‘shit.’ For a 7-year-old kid that was about the coolest thing ever.”
Kaysen drew laughter from the audience of chefs and other food lovers, when he noted wryly that those experiences with grandma clearly prepared him for the life and language of a professional kitchen.
His grandmother died seven months ago, while Kaysen was working on the speech he was to give for Commencement ceremonies at the prestigious Culinary Institute of American. In the speech he noted his grandmothers' influence on his career and the passion for cooking that she nurtured in him.
Kaysen won the James Beard Award for Rising Star Chef (under 30 years old) in 2008, pictured here.