The Cave
Attendees of the Annual Chamber of Commerce Gala take in a multi-sensory experience in the Cave. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

The magical moment in the stone “cave” passageway at Testarossa Winery was emblematic of the exquisite sensory experience that was this year’s annual Chamber of Commerce dinner, held March 9, the last with Executive Director Catherine Somers at the helm.

Fashionably-attired guests stood in the darkness as the scent of garlic wafted through the air, as a garbled assortment of cooking sounds were piped in—including quotes from local chefs layered on top of culinary scenes from popular movies.

When the lights came up, attendees entered the resplendent tasting room filled with Baharat spiced carrots, baked truffled mac n’ cheese and whole-roasted king salmon.

And suddenly, there was David Kinch, the restaurateur to whom the evening was dedicated, garbed in a green and blue tartan suit jacket, carrying a glass of red and sporting a ravishing smile.

David Kinch
David Kinch enjoying a glass of red in the tasting room. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

Somers, who announced earlier this year she would be stepping down from her business-boosting position, decided honoring the well-respected dining luminary would be a great way to go out on a high note.

Much has been made of the three Michelin stars awarded to Manresa, the Los Gatos restaurant he launched—and from which he recently retired.

But in the Q&A held later in the evening, Kinch humbly pointed out that the stars aren’t given to an individual. And when you leave, they don’t follow.

“There was an incredible team of very, very hardworking, ambitious, very passionate individuals that came and went, some of them stayed the entire length of the 20 years that we were open,” he said. “I think that was an intangible that made the restaurant really special.”

A recent trip to New York—the land of starchy, carb-laden, fatty dishes—reminded him of how lucky we are here, he said.

‘Thank you David for putting Los Gatos on the map, internationally’

—Rob Jensen, Testarossa Winery proprietor

“You know, we do not appreciate enough about where we are in California in terms of the quality of the produce, meat, fish, fruits, vegetables,” he said, noting that’s a big part of why he chose to open a restaurant in Los Gatos. “Cooking is not it’s not alchemy, it’s not a magic trick. Chefs are not magicians; they can’t take average ingredients and make a great dish. You work with great product.”

Great chefs have the ability to shepherd products all the way to the plate, he continued.

“It’s all about them having the ability to bring great products into their house; they treat them with respect, and then gently push them towards a period where they’re showing themselves at their best,” he said.

It’s not always the flashiest places that make the biggest impression, after all.

photo booth
The photo booth was a big hit. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

Kinch recalled exploring the “provincial restaurants” of France, places off the beaten path that packed the strongest culinary punch.

“You would get in the car, you would drive for a couple of hours and go to a place that was worth a special journey,” he said. “And you’d be driving down the country through woods—you’d think you were lost or something like this—and then you come to like a little town or a little village…It wasn’t a grand restaurant that was just all like crystal, and silver, and gold, chandeliers and all that. It was a profound restaurant of great food, and service—and ambience.”

Rob Jensen, the winery’s proprietor, followed up this story with one of his own—about the time he went to a Michelin three-star restaurant in France, and was asked by the head chef if he knew Kinch.

“He didn’t care about us,” he said. “But when he saw Los Gatos…in France, Los Gatos means David Kinch. And we were treated royally.

“So, thank you David for putting Los Gatos on the map internationally.”

Catherine Somers presents a gift to David Kinch at the conclusion of the evening. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)
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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


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