Chef David Kinch announces departure from Michelin-starred Manresa

The team at Manresa, including Executive Chef David Kinch (center)
The team at Manresa. From left to right: Wine Director Jim Rollston; Business Partner Jenny Yun; Executive Chef David Kinch; Pastry Chef Courtney Moisant; Chef de Cuisine Nicholas Romero.
(Via Facebook)

Twenty years after it first opened, acclaimed chef David Kinch announced that he will leave his Los Gatos restaurant Manresa at the end of the year to focus on other projects, including Aptos’ Mentone. His departure leaves the future of three Michelin-starred restaurant in limbo.

Chef David Kinch shocked the dining world Monday when he announced that he will leave his three Michelin-starred fine-dining Los Gatos restaurant, Manresa, at the end of the year.

“Manresa has essentially been my whole life for the past 20 years,” said the chef. “And like all passion projects, it has been more challenging and more rewarding than I could have imagined.” Starting Jan. 1, partner Jenny Yun will take over the helm, and Kinch will focus his time and effort on his other restaurants, including his two-year-old Mentone in Aptos, New Orleans-themed The Bywater in Los Gatos and his bakery, Manresa Bread, which has four locations throughout the South Bay, as well as new pursuits and “long-neglected passions.”

In his social media posts, Kinch remained vague about the future of Manresa, one of four restaurants in the Bay Area to have been awarded three stars, the Michelin Guide’s highest honor. There’s a chance it could close. Eater reported that Kinch will field offers for the restaurant, although the chef hopes it will continue as Manresa. In the meantime, Kinch says he’s working with Manresa Chef de Cuisine Nicholas Romero and Pastry Chef Courtney Moisant to create a series of memorable menus through the end of the year to make sure he goes out with a bang. Reservations are available through the end of November on Tock, and December dates will be added soon.

Chefs David Kinch (left) and Roberto Panizza, flanking Lookout's Lily Belli, judged the pesto competition
Chefs David Kinch (left) and Roberto Panizza, flanking Lookout’s Lily Belli, judged the pesto competition at Mentone in May.
(Lookout Santa Cruz)

The lauded chef, who is 61, seems to be taking a step back from the incredibly demanding, back-breaking work of managing one of the world’s best restaurants. “I’m getting to be an old man. There’s no more fine dining in me,” Kinch confessed in a 2018 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. He opened Manresa in 2002, and it soon drew international attention for its seasonal cuisine inspired by the Central Coast, including Santa Cruz County’s Manresa Beach, the chef’s favorite surf spot. The Michelin Guide awarded the restaurant two stars in 2007 and upgraded it to three stars in 2016. Many Santa Cruz County chefs have passed through Manresa’s kitchen, including Bookie’s chef Todd Parker, Malik Williams of Restaurant Malik Williams and Lalita Kaewsawang of Hanloh.

Kinch has lived in Santa Cruz for more than 20 years, and now his local fans can expect to see more of him at Mentone, which he opened in 2020. In 2021, the Michelin Guide awarded the Italian Riviera-inspired restaurant a Bib Gourmand, an honorable mention one step below a star. Perhaps the chef’s renewed presence there will be enough to earn Mentone a star — if so, it would be the first ever in Santa Cruz County.