Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Manresa in Food Arts

Pick up the September 2011 issue of Food Arts for a feature about Manresa and Love Apple Farms penned by Carolyn Jung.

It's no longer news when chefs shop at farmers' markets or buy direct from local growers. But if chefs aspire to the next level of produce perfection, they may just have to grow the vegetables themselves.

That was the reasoning behind David Kinch's decision to add farmer to his résumé. The chef/owner of Manresa, the acclaimed restaurant in Los Gatos, California, Kinch wanted to distinguish his kitchen from others doing market-based cooking. "Naively, I thought I could grow my own vegetables, because a chef's job is so easy," jokes Kinch.

But when a nearby farmer suggested an exclusive relationship, Kinch realized that was a wiser idea. Cynthia Sandberg's Love Apple Farms now harvests as many as 300 different fruits, vegetables, and herbs destined only for Manresa.

"Getting the quantities right is the hardest part," says Sandberg, who grew way too many salad greens at first. Kinch, for his part, finds a challenge in ensuring that not a leaf goes to waste. "Who knew that when lettuce bolts, you can peel and steam that bolting part, and it tastes like asparagus?" says the chef.

Partnering with Sandberg in not about saving money (he doesn't, says Kinch) or about nurturing his locavore spirit. "It's a commitment to excellence," says the chef, "and it has made the restaurant evolve into a much more vegetable-centric place."