When American chef David Kinch was a young cook in France in the 1970s and ’80s, he was heavily influenced by the rigor, discipline and classical canon of French cuisine. In 2002, that dedication culminated in the opening of Manresa, his longtime Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winner in Los Gatos, Calif. In 2017, Kinch decided to do something unusual to celebrate the restaurant's 15th anniversary: He closed Manresa for a month and took his team to France to collaborate with three renowned kitchens in Paris, Provence and Marseille, and it was all caught on film by French director Rémi Anfosso. The result is A Chef's Voyage.
The idea to do a pop-up restaurant in France was Kinch's, but Relais & Châteaux, an international association of luxury hotels and restaurants that includes Manresa as well as the restaurants where he and his team collaborated in France, facilitated the production of the film.
Kinch, who already has an Emmy Award for his work on the PBS series Mind of a Chef, says he was intrigued by how food was so ingrained in French culture, and thought this connection was missing in America. "I was fascinated by that," Kinch told Unfiltered. "I wanted my young cooks to experience that, to be that immersed … what made me fall in love with cooking is something I wanted to share with them."
The pop-up tour started in Paris at Grand Award winner Le Taillevent, home to one of France's largest wine cellars. Manresa wine director Jim Rollston collaborated with Taillevent's Antoine Pétrus to select French wines for the California-style dishes and West Coast wines for the French. Among the California Cabernets Rollston selected were a magnum of Ridge Monte Bello and a bottle of Mount Eden Vineyards from 2002, Manresa's opening year. Kinch was focused on the food, but says his passion for wine started at a young age; he worked in a wine store and did two harvests at Mount Eden, in 1988 and 1994, and eventually started making his own homemade wine.
A Chef's Voyage next follows the Manresa team south to Best of Award of Excellence winner L'Oustau de Baumanière in Les Baux de Provence, where Kinch and Rollston tour some local vineyards before joining Baumanière chef Glenn Viel for dinner service.
The journey (and the film) concludes in Marseille, where Kinch and chef Gérald Passédat of Le Petit Nice collaborate for a Mediterranean-style meal. Le Petit Nice was celebrating an anniversary as well—100 years—so Passédat opened a 1917 Château le Puy with Kinch and the winery owners (the bottle was one of only six bottles of the wine still known to exist, the rest of which can be found in the cellar at Le Petit Nice).
"The wine was super sound," Kinch recalls. "It was very lipid, very delicate, very aromatic. There wasn't any fruit in there, but it wasn't really tired in the first 20 minutes that it was opened. It was a real joy."
The release of A Chef's Voyage has been a bright spot this year for Kinch, who has not been able to welcome guests to Manresa during the COVID-19 pandemic. He wants viewers to see how this journey gave his Manresa family great memories that will one day resemble a version of his younger days in France. "I think it's safe to say we held our own," Kinch said of his team’s time in the French kitchens. "I think it ultimately shows that American cooking has come a long way. It's like the end of a circle, where I started training … coming around full circle and being able to do that was very personally satisfying."
A Chef's Voyage is now streaming on Apple TV, Amazon Prime and iTunes.
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