The Manresa Chef on Staying Grounded, Writing His Book, Being the Subject Matter, and Quitting by Text
From his restaurant Manresa in Los Gatos, California, David Kinch has evolved into one of the most celebrated chefs in the United States today. The restaurant holds two Michelin stars, four stars from the San Francisco Chronicle, and David was recently nominated as Outstanding Chef (in the nation) by the James Beard Foundation. It’s a busy time for him: although Manresa is his lone restaurant, he’s planning a bakery, published his first cookbook last fall, and, along with Cynthia Sandberg of Love Apple Farms, is the subject of the recent documentary The Farmer & The Chef. David cooked for such influential chefs as Paul Prudhomme and Barry Wine, and consulted to the Hotel Clio Court in Fukuoka, Japan, before moving to the Bay Area. His first restaurant as chef-proprietor was Sent Sovi in Saratoga, which he opened in 1995 then sold in 2002, the year he opened Manresa.
I hadn’t met David before last November, when he granted me an interview for an upcoming book project. When we connected again last month for a follow up, I asked him if he’d submit himself to a Toqueland interview. Most of this dialogue took place over lunch at Zuni Café, with the remainder conducted by phone the following week.
TOQUELAND: You’ve got just the one restaurant. How tough is that to stick to these days? Do opportunities come your way? Do you constantly have to resist things in order to stay there?
KINCH: There are a lot of opportunities that come my way; none of them really interest me. There’s not one that is a slam dunk. Anything interesting, I’ll entertain. Is it harder just to do one restaurant? No. I like going to work. I like going to Manresa and doing what I do for fifty people a night.
I’ve never really cooked for more than 120 a night. Ever. I’ve never had any interest in it. That’s not why I’m in the business. I’ve always been interested in the bespoke nature of fine dining. I’ve worked in a couple of hotels. They weren’t for me. I don’t know how to do volume.
TOQUELAND: You’re not interested in it or you literally don’t know how to do it?…