The Luxury Beat: Michelin Master David Kinch On Manresa’s 15th Anniversary

Chef David Kinch
Chef David Kinch

Photo Credit: Eric Wolfinger

This summer, Manresa, David Kinch’s Michelin three-star restaurant in Los Gatos, will celebrate its 15th birthday. Since opening in 2002, Kinch has navigated plenty of ups and downs including a crippling fire that shut the restaurant down for six months in 2014. However, since then, Manresa has become better than ever, earning that third Michelin star in 2015 and serving 60 guests per night—and for every four diners, there is one dedicated server to ensure that the experience is top quality. Two master sommeliers work the floor and guests are contacted in advance to ensure that the menu is completely personalized to suit each person’s specific dietary needs. The menu changes constantly, but it always features super seasonal, local produce in refined and innovative dishes. On the eve of Manresa’s crystal anniversary, we sit down with Kinch to discuss the current state of fine dining in the Bay Area.

How has the context of fine dining changed since you opened Manresa 15 years ago?

Fine dining has become much more democratized. More people have been exposed to what in the past has been called fine dining both with food, the wine world, and just restaurants in general. The dining public have become more savvy. The big change with restaurants is that they are responding to a more savvy customer base.

How has the public become more culinarily savvy?

A lot of fine dining is culturally based. People travel, they get exposed to new foods, the process of social media, and of course TV kind of spreads the gospel with a lot of that. Now I don’t think there’s a lot of fine dining on TV, there’s some, but it tends to be more of a mass market appeal sort of thing. And in wine exposure. Just the ability to communicate through social media, information spreads faster. We’re kind of in the golden age of restaurants and the golden age of winemaking right now. We see customers responding positively to both of them.

What is the biggest challenge for a fine dining establishment today?

Staying relevant. Fine dining is about being current, being contemporary, while still maintaining a level of hospitality and generosity that one associates with paying for a fine dining establishment. I think it’s a much more competitive market than it used to be. So we’re all forced to be on our toes and to continually work to improve what we have to offer.

Into the garden, a dish prepared at Manresa
Into the garden, a dish prepared at Manresa

Photo Credit: Eric Wolfinger

What do you credit Manresa’s longevity to?

We never give up. We work very hard, we have a great core group of employees, staff, and team members that believe in the long-term vision of the restaurant. We’ve been in business for 15 years now, so we’ve been through two renovations and a major fire. And we’ve always bounced back. We’ve bounced back not just simply to get back on our feet, but to be an even better establishment.

How do you maintain a high level of service and cuisine?

We work at it every day. At the end of service every day we ask ourselves what we can do to be better. We talk about the highlights of the day, we talk about the lowlights of the day. We treat everything as a learning experience about promoting the guest experience.

What distinguishes the Bay Area dining scene from the rest of the world?

The Bay Area is ground zero for California cuisine. In the 1970s, the region was an incubator for a public awareness of the possibilities and potential of the gastronomic opportunities in the United States. That continues now even though we’re a couple generations from the original group. You have passionate growers and suppliers, you have great growing climate, and more importantly you have a great customer base. The Bay Area is filled with a lot of people who are sophisticated, educated, looking for new experiences, and that benefits all of us. You see that not only with the large amount of different ethnic restaurants, but the different cultures represented in restaurants and also the high concentration of Michelin stars.

How will you celebrate Manresa’s 15th birthday?

We have a series of special events planned this year that we’re not quite ready to unveil, but should be announced in the next couple of months. We’re pretty excited about it.