Tomorrow and Sunday, David Kinch will welcome the acclaimed Australian chef Ben Shewry, of Restaurant Attica (no. 63 on the San Pellegrino World's Best Restaurants List), to Manresa. The chefs have gotten to know each other through the festival and symposium circuit and share a common love for product-driven cooking and the sea, among many other things, so odds are this won't be any old guest chef dinner. We got a chance to briefly catch up with Shewry, and here's what he had to say:
How'd you meet David?
We met when David visited Attica during the Melbourne food and wine festival in 2010. After that, we spent a day at my home in Ocean Grove surfing and hanging out.
What resonances do you see between your cooking and his?
A respect for the earth and a desire not to destroy the natural qualities of fine produce, but instead to enhance them. David has an original style and that totally resonates with me because it's what I always strive to achieve. I also like the way he treats his staff — he shows them a lot of respect and tries to nurture talent.
Is the idea to alternate between Manresa and Attica dishes, or to create a seamless meal where you might not be able to tell who is cooking what?
We are alternating dish-for-dish. It's too difficult to collaborate on a menu together from different ends of the world. If we lived in the same town, I think we're in tune enough that we could create dishes together for the dinner.
What are the challenges and advantages of doing a dinner not on your turf?
The seasons are opposite, so you need to get into a completely different frame of mind. We are doing a dish of crab and raw artichoke leaves, for instance, that I developed last November for our spring menu this October. We've never served it, so it will be a good trial.
The flavors of the ingredients are also quite different, so we'll need to make quite a few adjustments to the dishes to get them right. The quality of the produce here in California is amazing, though.
So much of fine dining today on the international scene seems to be about the relationships between chefs and creating dialogue, but is it a challenge to stay connected when you're probably the farthest away from most of the guys you're associated with?
Not really, thankfully. I'm lucky to see my friends like David fairly regularly at festivals, and often, there's a bit of time to catch up properly and share old war stories and new inspirations.