David Kinch, chef-owner of Manresa restaurant, in Silicon Valley’s Los Gatos, California, has been called a lot of things: a genius (by pal and jazz musician Wynton Marsalis); a culinary Mad Hatter (GQ magazine); big-hearted…and a veritable courtier of vegetable material (French chef Alain Passard); and Best Chef/Pacific (the James Beard Foundation), among them. And the Michelin-two-star Manresa, which Kinch opened in 2002, has been lauded as one of America’s best restaurants by the likes of Gourmet magazine and one of the world’s greatest by superstar Spanish chef Ferran Adrià.
Kinch was even the subject of a 2014 documentary film, The Farmer & The Chef, which explores the connection he shares with biodynamic farmer Cynthia Sandberg and her 22-acre Love Apple Farm, which supplies Kinch with produce all year long. His devotion to sustainability and experimentation has created a great working bond between the two.
Kinch’s table is rich with the flavors of his culinary journey. He has drawn from his hometown New Orleans, where he worked for chef Paul Prudhomme at Commander’s Palace; from his travels to and experiences in kitchens in Japan, France, Spain, and Germany after his graduation from Johnson & Wales University; from his mid-80s stint at New York City’s acclaimed Quilted Giraffe; and from the essence of California, where he settled and opened his first restaurant, bistro Sent Souvi, with Aimee Hébert in 1995.
The chef digs deep into ingredients to invent his dishes. They have names like An Autumn Tidal Pool (abalone, sea urchin, shellfish, foie gras, mushrooms, dashi-based broth), which is so evocative of the sea, said GQ writer Charles Bowden, that it’s “something a fish might whip up when feeling homesick.” His most famous concoction is Into the Vegetable Garden, an ode to Love Apple produce that contains dozens of them.
For home cooks who want to dive into Kinch’s world, his cookbook, Manresa: An Edible Reflection, was published in 2013. And although he’s done the occasional TV appearance (Iron Chef), the closest Kinch comes to expanding his franchise is the launch of the bakery Manresa Bread in early 2015 with baker/co-owner Avery Ruzicka. A second Los Gatos restaurant, New Orleans–inspired The Bywater, is currently in the planning stages.