The transformation was not an easy one, however. Manresa struggled initially, its opening coinciding with the dot com implosion of 2002, but despite the hit to the local economy, the restaurant began quietly establishing a name for itself among lovers of fine dining. In 2005, British food critic Jay Rayner wrote a favourable review of Manresa in The Observer, earning Kinch a reputation on the international culinary scene, while fellow chef Anthony Bourdain also praised his ‘wildly creative but well thought-out’ cooking.
When Michelin published their first guide to the Bay Area in 2007, Manresa was awarded two stars, but there were more struggles to come. Seven years later, in 2014, the restaurant was forced to close for six months after a two-alarm fire caused serious damage to the building. It reopened on New Year’s Eve 2014, following a $2 million remodel, and went on to earn a third Michelin star shortly afterward, in 2016.
Speaking at the restaurant’s 2014 reopening, Kinch said he would ‘always be grateful’ for the way the restaurant community had come together to help out, and in 2020 he took the opportunity to pay it forward, donating all of the proceeds from his on-demand documentary, A Chef’s Voyage to LEE Initiative’s Restaurant Workers Relief Program, which provides financial support for laid-off restaurant workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kinch has also spoken out against injustices faced by restaurant workers, including the sub-living wages caused by tipping culture, saying that restaurants should ‘embrace service charges and enter the 21st Century.’
David Kinch’s Manresa: 3 Michelin stars
The 2020 Michelin guide describes the dishes on offer at Manresa as ‘works of art,’ adding that ‘the food is at once cerebral and luxurious, approachable and thoroughly delicious.’ The Manresa dining experience includes a multi-course degustation menu, the contents of which remain a mystery until they arrive at the table, although guests are given a printed menu at the end of the meal to keep as a souvenir.
Manresa was an early pioneer of the farm-to-table ethic, and there is an emphasis on place, on produce and the land, that is evident not only in the locally-sourced ingredients, but in the inspiration for the dishes themselves. Dishes are rooted in both time and place, making reference to the seasons and the landscape itself with creations like Winter Tidal Pool, a homage to the rock pools of the local Bay Area.