David Kinch, US chef of three Michelin star restaurant Manresa in Los Gatos, California is an avid book reader and therefore it does not come as a surprise when he says that the image on social media is like pollution. It is not that he is against social media.
He tells Food and Wine Gazette in an interview that the restaurant is going to be over 15 years old and over 15 years we have seen the rise of social media. “I understand the power and potential of social media and I also understand that it is not going to go away. It is something we have to live with. Part of my job as a chef with my team is to harness the positive aspects of social media, spreading the notion of Manresa, our message and our story so people perhaps feel compelled to come and visit our restaurnant.”
“I have no problems with that. On the flipside, there is a lot of conversation that goes on in social media and in blogs that are public but do not necessarily have to happen in public. They would be much more conducive and positive if they are done in private. There is a lot of damage that can be done to the industry.”
He believes that the internet is a powerful research tool to learn about products, about people and that is great. “However, I find it very difficult to look at yet another 20 course menu in a Nordic or South American restaurant because to me the image is like pollution. It is a pollution in the mind that can distract you from your own growth and your own personal style.”
Kinch says that with reading it is completely different because reading leaves everything to imagination. “If you see a picture of all 20 courses at a restaurant half way around the world, it ruins the element of surprise when you visit that restaurant. The moment of expectation for me is an important part of the restaurant experience,” Kinch says.
“I don’t want to sound like an old man. But in the past, making a restaurant at a restaurant 15 years ago was different. Say you were going to Paris to eat in a 2 or 3 Michelin star restaurant. You make a reservation three months in advance maybe by sending a letter or a fax. “Over these 3 or 4 months, your expectations build, maybe you have a chance to see a menu. You do not see photos of the food but maybe you read descriptions. You are building expectations and may even think about how some dishes might look. Then when you actually have the dinner, it is laid out for you like a play or cinema and your expectations are met. There are a lot of emotional moments that go on to create this wonderful memory,” Kinch says.
“Today if you make a reservation three months in advance and you spend the three months reading everybody’s reviews and also the very close descriptions of every single dish with numerous photos, over and over again, it desensitises your enjoyment of the experience. For me that is the downside of social media,” he says.
Kinch, 55, has a cuisine with strong French, Catalan and Japanese influences and earlier this year opened a second restaurant in Los Gatos, California called Bywater.
The American chef finds inspiration from books but also from travel. “I am a big reader. I am not talking about the internet or scrolling pictures of food on the internet. I like to read books, I like to read about chefs and to understand their way of thinking, how they approach cooking and create their own universe. For me reading is very important. I love reading cookbooks of all sorts.”
“I have also had the opportunity to travel a lot over the recent years and that has been a great source of inspiration. When you travel, you not only have the opportunity to eat in the restaurants of your peers but you also get a grasp of the culinary culture in the country or region you visit. “When you travel somewhere for a long way, you suffer from jet lag so you wake up very early in the morning because you cannot sleep. What better opportunity then to go and check out the early morning markets. For me the markets tell you almost everything you need to know about a town or city you are visiting, the ingredients, the people who are shopping for them, the seasonality. It tells you many different things. If you have to create a menu, most of the work will be done with a visit to the market,” Kinch says.
Travel for chefs across the globe has increased considerably but Kinch has tried to reduce the amount of travelling he does recently. “I’ve decided to cut down on travel because I have been doing it for a while now and I am a little bit older so it is more of an effort. I am also settled with the universe I have created at Manresa and am settling down in it. I enjoy the time that I spend in the restaurant much more than I ever had. I make it a point not to travel during summer. I live in Santa Cruz by the ocean. Moreover, this is the busiest period for us,” the American chef said.
Manresa made it recently to one of the top positions in the Opinionated about Dining list and placed in 83rd place in the World’s 50 best restaurants list. But he does not give any importance to this. “We have been in the 1-100 list for the past 10 to 11 years and we were in the top 50 twice. But I choose not to play the game. If is difficult to get people to come to Los Gatos to east because we are pretty much off the beaten track. For me, I do not think about the list, I do not lose sleep about it. If we are on the list, I guess that’s ok,” he says.
Kinch says that his team and he does not cook for awards or recognition. “I am a big believer that if you do what you do well, recognition and success will happen. If you cook for the awards you are not going to achieve that.”
Asked where he thinks he will be in the next three to five years he says Manresa has started a bakery and they are working on expanding that a bit. “After all these years, I find myself most happy working in the restaurant so that is probably where you will find me in the next three to give years.”
Los Angeles is a compelling place to visit for food
Where would he recommend visiting in the United States we ask him apart from California where his restaurant is? He says people from Europe normally go to New York. “That is an obvious choice. Perhaps they visit San Francisco. Los Angeles has made tremendous strides and is doing really well in the casual arena with ethnic cuisine. It has become a compelling place to visit for food.”
“Other than that, I have not been to East coast cities recently. I spent time growing up in New Orleans. You have people coming from Europe and they always go to New York, Los Angeles, maybe Chicago and the Grand Canyon. One of the things I like to tell people is that they should visit Memphis, Tennesey, they should rent a car and drive to to Orleans, Louisiana and they should drive slow and listen to the music. Eat the food and learn about the the US which they never thought existed. New Orleans is one of the great cities of the world,” he says.
Kinch’s favourite books
Kinch says he reads a lot of books and tries to read about French masters, old school books and old menus to see what people were doing 30, 40, or 50 years ago. “I find a lot of inspiration from that.”
“A great book for me is the encyclopaedia of practical gastronomy by Ali Bab. I also like Great Chef’s of France. Michel Bras’ book is also astonishing and should be in every library. One of the most compelling books I have read is Pascal Barbot’s L’Astrance. This is a very moving and emotional book and it is also one which has few recipes. That is one of the reasons why I liked it because he talked about his thought process. That was really amazing,” he says.
Located in the village of Los Gatos at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains 50 miles south of San Francisco, Manresa is the showcase for the cuisine of renowned Chef and Proprietor David Kinch. Manresa serves a nightly tasting menu showcasing and offering the finest of each season’s products. Its collaboration and proximity to local farms allows the restaurant to source the highest quality ingredients of the season, and of that day, creating a distinctive dining experience for guests and allowing the restaurant to present the best possible menu that evening. For more information, visit www.manresarestaurant.com or call 408.354.4330.
Manresa earned 3-Michelin stars for 2016 and held two Michelin stars for nine consecutive years prior. The restaurant also became part of the esteemed Relais & Chateaux family in 2016.
In addition, Bon Appétit called Manresa one of the “20 Most Important Restaurants in America” and GQmagazine named him “Chef of the Year”. Kinch was a Semi-Finalist for the “Outstanding Chef” award from the James Beard Foundation, and received the Foundation’s “Best Chef: Pacific” award. When his first cookbook, titled “Manresa: An Edible Reflection,” debuted, it was number 19 on the New York Times “Best Sellers List.” In 2015, Kinch expanded the Manresa brand to include Manresa Bread, a bakery whose practices include in-house milling. This year, he also opened a casual New Orleans themed joint, The Bywater, paying homage to Kinch’s youth.