F&W Star Chef
Restaurant: Manresa (Los Gatos, CA)
A New Orleans native, chef David Kinch got his start as a 16-year-old cook at Commander’s Palace in 1977. He graduated from Johnson & Wales Culinary Academy in Providence, and spent much of the next two decades racking up kitchen experience around the world. He staged in Europe—at L’Espérance in St-Père-en-Vézelay, France, and Akelarre in San Sebastián, Spain, among other places—and consulted on an American restaurant at the Hotel Clio Court in Fukuoka, Japan. After working in New York, Kinch decamped to the West Coast, eventually opening his flagship, Manresa, in 1992. His first book, Manresa: An Edible Reflection, is scheduled to come out in fall 2013.
Here, Kinch talks about food obsessions, Japanese steel and store-bought essentials.
What dish are you most famous for?
Into the Vegetable Garden: It symbolizes the exclusive relationship between Love Apple Farms and Manresa. Love Apple is a 22-acre biodynamic farm. We work together in deciding what to plant, and the farm supplies produce for us throughout the year. Although it changes with the seasons, the dish contains a mixture of raw and cooked vegetables and fruits from the farm.
What is your favorite cookbook of all time?
Great Chefs of France is a great introduction to the recipes and cooking styles of chefs like Alain Chapel and Roger Vergé. It came out in the late ’70s and was very influential on me as a young cook.
What was the first dish you ever cooked yourself?
Omelets, when I first started getting interested in food. A perfect omelet is an amazing thing. It’s all about the technique: control of the heat, the temperature of the eggs, the time it spends in the pan. For such a simple dish, you have to put so much into it to make it perfect.
What is your secret-weapon ingredient?
Different acids—salt, citrus and vinegar are the keys to all balance.
Name one indispensable store-bought ingredient.
Good dried durum-wheat pastas have a long shelf life.
What is the most cherished souvenir you’ve brought back from a trip?
Cooking knives from Japan. I usually add one or two to my collection each time I visit. They are very, very sharp and the craftsmanship is of the highest quality. Part of the adventure is picking up knives until you find the one that fits your hand perfectly and beautifully.
What is your current food obsession?
Abalone. I’ve been making an abalone-rice hot pot with spring onions, shiso leaves and Japanese rice.
What is your favorite snack?
Fresh fruit. I really like raw tomatoes and tomato-rubbed bread in the summertime.