Manresa in Los Gatos, California, boasts two chefs as nominees for 2014 James Beard Awards. Chef-Proprietor David Kinch is a finalist for the Oustanding Chef Award. Chef de Cuisine Jessica Largey is a finalist for the Rising Star Chef Award. The James Beard Awards will be held in New York City on May 5th. You can also listen to our interview with the James Beard Foundation about the 2014 awards.
Chef-Proprieter David Kinch
Chef David Kinch has forged a distinctive culinary career path leading to the opening of Manresa and putting him at the forefront of new contemporary California cuisine. Kinch’s driving force for his daily work remains the satisfaction he gets from cooking.“ Very simply, I love doing this,” he say. “My great pleasure is people being incredibly happy with their experience at the restaurant.”
Although he was born in Philadelphia, Kinch was raised in New Orleans, a city with a rich and distinctive culinary history that had a lasting impact on him. His first job was in a restaurant kitchen at the age of 16 and from there he formally pursued a culinary career by enrolling at Johnson and Wales Culinary Academy in Providence, RI. “The only jobs I’ve ever had were in restaurants; I was fascinated by the culture of working in them,” he recalls. “I knew early on that I wanted to have my own restaurant.” After graduating, Kinch spent the next 15 years working his way up in the culinary world, completing stages at Michelin-starred restaurants in France, Germany, and Spain; working as a chef in New York; and as a consultant chef in Fukuoka, Japan. In 1993, he relocated to San Francisco and two years later opened Sent Sovi in Saratoga, California. In 2002, he moved south to Los Gatos, buying the property that would become Manresa.
Kinch’s culinary philosophy is fostered by the terroir, or the “sense of place” of the California Coast, and the kind of ingredient-driven cooking and modern technique he has studied around the world. His pursuit for exceptional ingredients has inspired an exclusive partnership with Farmer and Owner Cynthia Sandberg of Love Apple Farms, where all of the vegetables, as well as herbs, eggs, honey, and many other ingredients, are grown for the restaurant. By having an exclusive working relationship with the farm for most of his ingredients, Kinch is creating a closed loop between the farm and his kitchen, and assuring that the dining experience imparts to guests a distinct sense of place and time.
“What we have is a working farm and a working restaurant,” Kinch says. “We’ve made it a viable partnership, and that makes it unique. Every decision we make is based on the quality of what we can do and controlling the quality of the ingredients we offer our guests.” For ingredients not provided by the farm, Kinch works closely with local purveyors, making sure that everything being presented on the menu meets the same high standards.
Manresa has been awarded two Michelin stars for eight consecutive years and was named one of Restaurant Magazine and San Pellegrino’s “Top 50 Best Restaurants in the World” in 2012. In 2010, Kinch was awarded the Best Chefs in America award for the Pacific region from the James Beard Foundation. This year, Bon Appetit called Manresa one of the “20 Most Important Restaurants in America.”
Kinch released a cookbook titled Manresa: An Edible Reflection in October 2013, which was on the New York Times “Best Sellers List.” In 2011, he was named Dean of the International Culinary Center, located in New York and California. He lives in Santa Cruz and enjoys spending time outside surfing and sailing.
Jessica Largey, Chef de Cuisine
Few people can say that they started cooking at the age of five but Jessica Largey, Chef de Cuisine at Manresa restaurant, can trace her culinary roots back to a popular breakfast dish. While watching her mom make scrambled eggs one morning, Largey took in every detail from preparation to cooking and decided to recreate the dish on her own the following morning. From that moment, she was interested in everything that went on in the kitchen and learned a lot from her grandmother, who was a very knowledgeable and accomplished home cook.
A Southern California native, Largey’s first position in the culinary industry was in 2005 as an intern at the award-winning Providence restaurant in Los Angeles, a fine dining destination offering premium seafood and shellfish. Largey was soon promoted to line cook, furthering her training in specific areas of the kitchen including all three fish stations. Her growing interest in the culinary field led her to stage at The Fat Duck in England in 2007. Here she was involved with the preparation and production for both savory and pastry at the renowned restaurant. She also worked as a garde manger during her stage.
In 2008, she returned to Los Angeles, accepting the role of opening chef at LAMILL Coffee Boutique, a stylish coffee house opened by the team behind Providence offering gourmet brews, café menu and unique wine selection. Largey was responsible for all aspects of the kitchen and staff including recipe development, ordering, scheduling, and training. It was not until a special event at Providence in early 2008 that Largey was introduced to Manresa Chef and Owner David Kinch. Largey’s task was to support Kinch during his guest chef appearance at the restaurant, helping him prepare and execute an mussel dish that she describes as “natural and simple,” an approach to cuisine that she truly respected and admired. Largey and Kinch stayed in touch after the event and in the fall of 2008 she staged at Manresa where she learned more about Kinch’s philosophy and discovered one of the main sources of inspiration for his menu – Love Apple Farms, the restaurant’s exclusive farm partner.
She returned to Los Angeles following her stage to work at Bastide Restaurant in West Hollywood. Here she managed the fish side of the line in the kitchen and also got involved in sourcing ingredients from the farmers markets and collaborating with the chef on menu development. While she continued to work in this role, Largey felt a strong desire to go back to Northern California, and specifically Manresa, to resume working with Kinch. By March of 2009, Largey returned to Manresa accepting the role of Chef de Partie. She was promoted to Sous Chef in April 2011 and to Chef de Cuisine in early 2012.
Largey, 28, lives in San Francisco’s Mission District and when she is not in the restaurant, she can be found cooking, foraging, and enjoying the outdoors. She also has a knack for collecting old books –mostly cookbooks.
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