There were many cultures where the cuisine
was vibrant in the South Bay, so the
bones were in place. It was just a matter
of other chefs getting in the game, other
restaurants making their mark. The South
Bay is a really interesting place in terms of
the restaurant scene right now. There are
a fair amount of Michelin stars down here.
There are a lot of diverse restaurateurs and
chefs. It’s an exciting place to be.
SBA: Manresa is one of just seven restaurants
with three Michelin stars in the greater
Bay Area. Do you feel pressure to keep those
stars, which are so difficult to get?
DK: I try not to be stressed out about it. It’s
the same way as when you’re trying to get
them. You don’t cook to keep them, you
just do what you do. You stay true, you stay
focused, you keep your team motivated, you
have a shared vision and you let the chips
fall where they may. It’s really that simple.
If you sit there worrying late at night, then
your health suffers and things can go south
if you’re not careful.
SBA: Speaking of health, you’ve talked about
how you changed your lifestyle profoundly
after the first fire, in 2014, closed Manresa
68 South Bay Accent
for many months. After that, you lost a lot
of weight and made other changes. What
DK: Part of the reason why I was so unhealthy
is that I had become the restaurant
because I thought that’s what great chefs do;
you morph literally into your restaurant.
When the fire burned, I burned as well.
It created a lot of physical damage to the
restaurant, but it created a lot of emotional
and mental damage to myself. I had to figure
out how to get out of it because my goal
always has been my entire life not to die
in a kitchen.
The restaurant would have to change
and I would have to change. So I make a
concerted effort to find a balance in my
life. Have the restaurant be important to
me but not have it be my life. I spend less
time at the restaurant. I do that by design.
I’ve learned to delegate tasks to people who
are incredibly talented and passionate, and
it has afforded me the opportunity to find
balance, be happier but still find great joy
in going to the restaurant every day, which
I still love to do. The kicker to all this is that
making these decisions and finding balance
garden path to
the entrance of
and not treating the restaurant as actually an
inner part of my soul is that the restaurant
has actually gotten better. For me, it was a
SBA: What’s your lifestyle like now?
DK: No one’s allowed to contact me from the
restaurant unless it’s an emergency before
10:30 in the morning. That’s my time. I read
books, I go to the gym, I go for a surf, I go for
a bike ride. I start my day off with physical
activity to clear my mind and prepare for the
day. That’s very important. If people insist
the only time they can meet is at 9 a.m. in
the morning and it’s important, they have
to find another way to do it because that’s
my time. The easiest thing I could do is to
allow my current 12-hour day to go to a
15-hour day, and I refuse to do that now.
SBA: You’ve had quite a career, working all
over the world as a chef: France, Germany,
Japan, Spain, New York, San Francisco and
now in the South Bay. How have these experiences
with different cuisines impacted
what you create today?
DK: My vision has evolved over the years. I
didn’t arrive in California until 1990. During
the decade or so before that, my ideas