Why David Kinch Is Leaving His Legendary Michelin-Starred Restaurant

Manresa, chef David Kinch's celebrated restaurant in Los Gatos, California, has seen a lot in its 20 years in business. Opened in 2002, according to SFGate, Manresa opened just as the sun was setting on the first dot-com bubble and continued to serve legendary dishes as Silicon Valley dusted itself off and readied itself for the next boom.

During that time, the restaurant built itself a reputation as an inventive temple of locavore cuisine, drawing on ingredients and products sourced from the rich Bay Area waters, farms, and vineyards. In a Metro Silicon Valley profile, Kinch pulled back the curtain on Manresa's inner workings, revealing how he interprets rare items, such as a chicken only available to one other chef, through the lens of a range of cooking styles, including French, Catalan, and Japanese.

For all of the success Manresa has enjoyed — the San Francisco Chronicle once called it "French Laundry South" referring to Thomas Keller's wildly successful eatery on the northern end of the Bay — Kinch said recently he sees another major shift on the horizon, one that is prompting him to walk away from Manresa for good.

A shifting landscape

As reported by Bloomberg, Kinch is fielding offers for both the business and physical location of Manresa. The move, he says, is motivated both by a desire to move on to other pursuits that interest him, and a belief that the high-end service style offered at Manresa and restaurants like it is fading in popularity. Including both the front and back of the house, Manresa employs 29 people per night to serve around 40 guests. 

"Three-star restaurant dining is transitioning really hard," he says. "Chefs who were used to having armies of people have had to rethink their operating manual."

In its place, Kinch sees uber high-end establishments with minimal service staffs — such as counter spots where chefs directly serve diners — flourishing, and so-called "white tablecloth" restaurants becoming once again a playground for the exceedingly well-heeled as the gap between rich and poor only widens.

Kinch isn't departing kitchens entirely, though. He has stated that he will continue to operate his three remaining area restaurants, The Bywater, Mentone, and Manresa Bread.