Dominique Crenn — Timelessness. Chef’s Table, V.2 E.3
Here’s a gem buried in the heart of Chef’s Table, Volume 2. This episode features French chef Dominique Crenn, who not long ago became the first woman to receive three Michelin stars for a restaurant in America.
Check out yesterday’s episode, which featured Brazilian chef Alex Atala and his quest to further natural conservation in Brazil.
I really enjoyed this episode! I related to Dominique Crenn in a number of ways, and she struck me as a very interesting and intelligent person.
This episode also contained great insights into life and art. Dominique Crenn is not just a chef — through her cooking, she’s an artist.
She spoke candidly about how expectations can make her feel down sometimes, about how hard she is on herself, and about the importance of family.
I loved that the menu at her restaurant, Atelier Crenn — which is named after her father, not after herself — comes in the form of a poem. Not all of you foodie fans may know that I am a poet in addition to a writer of Netflix show guides like this one. You can find my poetry in The Poetry Deck archives if you’re a lover of words as well as a lover of food.
Let’s dig further into this episode and into Dominique Crenn’s story.
Dominique spent the first eighteen months of her life in an orphanage, before being adopted by a family from Versailles. The family had a farm in Brittany where they spent summers.
Dominique has a fantastic memory that she uses to trap moments in time in her dishes. For her, Brittany is a place of timelessness. She doesn’t return there often. But she does regret not being with her father when he died.
Towards the end of the episode, she said that all kids think of their parents as immortal. For her, her father’s death was a wake-up call about human mortality.
The journey to Atelier Crenn…
Dominique didn’t start cooking in restaurant kitchens until she moved to San Francisco in the late 1980s, around twenty years old. Then, she jumped straight into the kitchen of Stars, a restaurant run by “superstar” chef Jeremiah Tower. In Tower’s kitchen, she learned to innovate new dishes and expand on techniques she already knew.
She traveled the world from restaurant kitchens, holding positions in Indonesia and in various locations around the U.S. before returning to San Francisco, where she opened Atelier Crenn.
Although the local critics didn’t see the importance of Dominique’s vision — cooking as art — Atelier Crenn was awarded with one Michelin star within a year of its inception. Not long after, it gained a second Michelin star. And in 2018, it gained its third Michelin star — and Crenn’s second restaurant, Petit Crenn, gained its first. This means that Dominique Crenn now holds four Michelin stars.
Dominique describes herself as someone searching for her identity. She believes she’s still searching.
For her, opening Atelier Crenn was a dream. But once she accomplished the dream, it was no longer a dream, and new dreams began to form. She describes herself as an artist. Her father, too, was an artist, and from a young age he pushed her to explore her creativity.
She is an artist! Her food is beautiful. One of the commentators in this episode suggested that she herself was, in the beginning, too beautiful for the critics to take seriously. And they’re right. She’s beautiful. She reminds of me of the princess in the first Pink Panther movie. I think she’s a great role model for all chefs and artists out there, including myself.
Watch this episode. You won’t regret it. And learn more about Dominique Crenn and her restaurant on its website.
As a reminder, you can find all installments in this Chef’s Table guide in the Chef’s Table archives.
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