4/26/2013 03:00:00 PM

5 Questions For Stephanie Prida, Manresa's Rising Pastry Chef

Stephanie Prida, photo by Eric Wolfinger
Stephanie Prida, the pastry chef at Manresa, is definitely a talent worth watching out for. Recently shortlisted for Food & Wine’s “The People’s Best New Pastry Chef” award, the San Diego native has been turning heads since she joined the kitchen brigade down at David Kinch’s celebrated Los Gatos restaurant. Prida's first love was art and she attended culinary school as a way to combine that passion with her interest in cooking. Her professional journey took her to kitchens in Las Vegas, La Jolla and Italy before settling down in Chicago where she’s worked for the past few years, spearheading the pastry program first at One Sixty Blue Restaurant, and then later at Ria, Balsan Restaurant, and most recently L20 Restaurant. 

Prida, who continues to paint in her free time, takes the same approach to her desserts as she does to her art making, employing great attention to detail and artistry. We recently caught up with the rising pastry chef and asked her about her new life in the Bay Area, how the West Coast differs from the dining scene in Chicago and what it’s like to work with David Kinch.

Zagat Survey: What are the biggest differences between the dining scene in Chicago and the Bay Area?

SP: The most apparent difference to me between the Bay Area dining scene and Chicago’s is its hours of operation. Chicago is a late night city, restaurants are open later and there is always a place to go for a great meal at 1 AM after I finished a dinner service. Bay Area dining is a much earlier affair. At 11 PM the streets are empty and I’m still looking for a great place to go late at night.

ZG: What's your pastry philosophy at Manresa?

SP: My Manresa pastry philosophy is to live off the land. The produce, the dairy...is by far the best I’ve ever worked with. I’m constantly discovering a new small production purveyor that blows my mind. The pistachios from the Santa Barbara Pistachio Company are like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. I simply try to showcase these California products in my desserts.

ZS: What’s it like working with David Kinch?

SP: The word that comes to mind when I think about working with David Kinch is generosity. He truly embodies this word: in the way that he strives for balance in the lives of his cooks between work and pleasure (rare in this industry) and in his desire to share his endless knowledge of product, the area surrounding Manresa and the industry. I look forward to coming to work each day.

 ZS: Now that you’re a rising chef, young pastry chefs will be looking to you as a role model. Who do you consider your culinary mentors?

SP: From the moment I met Matt Kirkely (of L20) five years ago, he has been the standard I hold myself to both personally and professionally. He is a genius in every way, guiding me in my career and helping me find a place in this industry where I have some sort of balance in my life.

ZS: Where do you like to eat out when you’re off from work?

SP: David Kinch’s house. His girlfriend Pim [Techamuanvivit] “whips up” incredible meals. If you are lucky enough to find yourself at their table, prepare for the best dining experience in Santa Cruz. 

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