Juan Luis and David
LEADERSHIP TEAM - Renowned chef David Kinch (center) with Juan and Luis Caviglia, who developed a software business to optimize restaurant table management, and are now reinventing the Manresa brand. (Photo by Jim Sullivan)

When superstar chef David Kinch decided to shutter Manresa at the end of 2022, it seemed an era of Los Gatos culinary fame had come to a close. Through several seasons the building sat, with its “For Lease” sign, looking like a child that had lost a best friend. Real estate agents were at first forthcoming and then, not so much, as the rumors began to fly.

Then, word slowly got out that the name “Manresa” was going to live on in culinary parlance, at least for a while, and that Kinch was not really out of the picture: the place would become the setting for a series of pop-ups called Ritual at Manresa. It would feature the cuisine from guest chefs from around the world, many of whom happened to be colleagues of Kinch.

But who’s behind it?, we wondered. Turns out, two Uruguayan entrepreneurs had fixed on a concept that would combine the world of fine dining with a technology business they’d hatched back in 2016.

Brothers Juan and Luis Caviglia were destined to be software engineers one way or another. But it was thanks to their sister’s career as an international chef that they came to blend their talents with her connections. Collaborating closely with some of Latin America’s most celebrated restaurants and chefs, they created the Meitre platform to help restaurants provide customized marketing to maximize reservations.

Meitre, which initially launched in Argentina, Brazil, and Peru, does not replace reservation systems, but instead works with them. Meitre claims to increase restaurant profits as much as 30 percent, by optimizing table allocation, prioritizing high margin bookings at peak hours and eliminating no-shows.

FOODIES – The brothers were in the Y Combinator program and are setting up shop in Los Gatos. (Photo by Jim Sullivan)

“The first to recognize the value of our software was the legendary Argentine chef Francis Mallmann, with whom we formed a wonderful friendship,” the brothers told us. “Interestingly, chef Mallmann was also the inaugural chef to join Ritual in 2021, when we commenced our series of intimate dinners with world-renowned chefs in undisclosed locations around the Bay Area.” Among the early adopters of Meitre were establishments such as Central (from chef Virgilio Martínez), Maido (Mitsuharu Tsumura), DOM (Alex Atala), Pujol (Enrique Olvera), and Quintonil (Jorge Vallejo).

The brothers came to Silicon Valley in 2018 to participate in Y Combinator, the incubator behind Dropbox, Airbnb, Stripe and other Silicon Valley unicorns. They scored when Andreessen Horowitz invested $1.6 million in Meitre. One of the fund’s investor/advisors is the former CEO of OpenTable. They currently have about 100 restaurant clients.

During the pandemic, though, the brothers were forced to hit pause. “Our go-to-market strategy encountered a setback with the global pandemic, which unexpectedly became the catalyst for creating Ritual,” they said. “In the first three months of 2020, we began assessing the various scenarios resulting from the global response to Covid-19.

Tales of the town cover
Click here to read Dan Pulcrano’s food dispatch from the South American restaurant of one Ritual chef for this week’s Tales of the Town installment. (Photos by Dan Pulcrano; composite by Drew Penner)

“While some chefs contemplated closure, others sought to devise take-out processes, and a few adventurous souls even considered delivery services. We spent months navigating the opportunities presented by the new reality, and, after nearly a year of planning amidst uncertainty, we launched Ritual in May 2021 with our inaugural series of secret dinners.”

These clandestine dinners were held in different locations on the Peninsula, including private homes, art galleries, churches—even open fields. Each Ritual pop-up segment consisted of six dinners monthly, with two large communal tables where guests could connect with like-minded diners, giving them a chance to enjoy an unparalleled culinary experience when the world seemed unable to offer anything else.

When the brothers, who had dined at Manresa in the past, realized the restaurant space was available, they couldn’t help but think it might be a good fit. Shortly after they began working on transitioning their pop-up concept to the location, they approached Kinch, who was contemplating how the Manresa brand could continue beyond his tenure.

Kinch told the Los Gatan he’s happy to partner with the Caviglias. He’ll be a “culinary ambassador,” meaning he’ll be sharing his wealth of knowledge—and contacts—with the brothers. Clearly, he’s having fun and enjoying the opportunity to maintain connections with his colleagues in the food world.

view from the outside
REVIVAL – Exterior view of the building where the culinary magic will happen. (Photo by Nick Vasilopoulos)

“It’s a fabulous concept,” said Kinch. “Los Gatos is really embracing it. Juan and Luis are really smart, and they know what they are doing. They had a pop-up business on the Peninsula that really caught on and were looking for the right venue to make it more permanent. People are absolutely loving it. The first tranche of dinners sold out almost instantly, and that was with no proof of concept.”

Kinch has no plans to don an apron himself, however. But he certainly wants the brothers to succeed. After all, he notes, “I’m also the landlord.”

We wondered who provides service for these pop-up dinners, and the Caviglias explained that each restaurant flies in their kitchen staff, who seamlessly integrate with the in-house team to orchestrate the culinary magic one expects at a place like Manresa.

Chefs typically bring a few members of their front-of-house team, such as a maître d’, sommelier, or general manager. The nature of each residency varies, as some restaurants shut down their entire operation at their home base to participate in Ritual, while others send a team to Los Gatos, while keeping their home base open. And yes, Juan and Luis attend each of the dinners.

Some chefs import special ingredients for their dishes. Some rely on local ingredients, Dinners generally include 9-12 mini courses. Vegetarian options are available, but must be requested 72 hours in advance.

Tickets start at $450 per person, with optional wine and nonalcoholic pairings available. By the way, the corkage fee is $150 for a 750ml bottle. There are 48 seats available each evening, with priority given to those with a Ritual at Manresa membership. Subscribers can book scheduled dinners throughout 2024, access last-minute seats, and participate in chef meet-and-greets. There’s also a private room for members. The monthly membership fee is $190.

Members get access to tickets 60 days in advance of a residency.

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