Let the Good Times Creole

David Kinch gets back to his New Orleans roots with The Bywater

David Kinch has two very valid reasons for opening The Bywater, his New Orleans-inspired restaurant, which opened its Mardi Gras-hued doors yesterday in Los Gatos, California.

"It's my way of saying thank you to the town of Los Gatos," the chef says of the longtime home for his whimsical, Michelin-starred Manresa. And secondly: "Selfishly, we created a place where we want to hang out after work."

Jazz music weaves through the space (Wynton Marsalis was Kinch's high school classmate), two kinds of gumbo fill up the menu—"I still find that fascinating to this day," Kinch says of the storied stew—and a line of about 30 people has already formed outside the restaurant as of 11 a.m. yesterday morning. Clearly, people are excited about Kinch returning to his New Orleans roots. The chef got his start there in the kitchen at the legendary Commander's Palace after working the front of the house.

"I was mesmerized by the cooks, how they were slightly profane and tribal. They were working with fire, and they were creating," Kinch explains over the phone. "I saw what their work was doing in the dining room, and I saw the pleasure they brought."

Now Kinch is churning out that same comforting pleasure with hot hush puppies, fried chicken with butter beans, rich man's red beans and rice, and, of course, po'boys. He's tapped David Morgan as his chef de cuisine after his years working under John Besh and the San Francisco-based Tin Roof Drink Community for festive drinks.

As Kinch works on getting the restaurant up and running, he also has brunch in the works and an open patio that's just itching for spring to roll around. But one thing that's he not toying with is the cuisine itself.

"I'm not reimagining anything," Kinch explains. "I think that's a misconception about The Bywater. I'm not reinventing the wheel. What I opened up is a neighborhood joint."