Growing up surrounded by influences in the kitchen, Dominique Crenn was introduced to the joys of fine dining from a young age. Having her first tasting menu at the age of eight or nine proved to be instrumental in her becoming a chef. She was adopted when she was 18 months by a couple from France. Her mother was a chef who took her to experience different cultures cuisines from a young age: Indian, Chinese and Japanese to name but a few. Her father’s friend was a famous French restaurant critic and would take her along when he dined with him. With this upbringing, it was a foregone conclusion that she would end up working with food.
Originally from Versailles, she graduated from the University of Paris with a degree in economics and international business. She began her formal training as a chef after she moved from France to San Francisco in 1988, wanting to follow her dream and learn from the best of the French kitchens. She trained under Jeremiah Tower and Mark Franz at the city’s Stars restaurant who she credits as making her the chef she is today.
After working in California, in 1997 Dominique moved to Indonesia where she was made the first female executive chef in the country, making history by taking the helm at the Intercontinental Hotel. This trip was cut short due to political difficulties, and she returned to San Francisco just a year later.
A freak accident in 2009 which changed her life would be the catalyst to the opening of the restaurant for which she is probably most well known. Atelier Crenn opened in 2011 which was a homage to her father, who passed away in 1999. Winning a coveted second Michelin star in 2013, made her the first female chef in America to achieve the distinction. Numerous other accolades would follow such as Iron Chef USA as well as Esquire and Eater’s Chef of the Year. In 2016, she was awarded World’s Best Female Chef at the Worlds 50 Best Restaurants Awards and was the subject of an episode on season 2 of the Netflix original series Chef’s Table.
Crenn describes her extremely original and ingenious cooking style at Atelier Crenn as ‘poetic culinaria’, taking her inspiration from her childhood and the natural world. What makes her restaurant stand out is that her tasting menu is presented as a poem, with each line of the poem representing a different dish on the menu. The tasting menu is also a showcase for her creativity, which takes her diners on an emotional journey encompassing flavours, textures and scents allowing all the senses to play a part. She claims that she imagines an experience, memory or emotion and tries to recreate that with her menu.
While running her flagship restaurant in San Francisco and maintaining its accolades, in 2015 Crenn also found time to open her second restaurant Petit Crenn, an upmarket French Bistro. In the same year she also wrote her debut cookbook, Atelier Crenn: Metamorphosis of Taste which traces her childhood love for food to her passion for cooking and her unprecedented success. Her food is centred around organic, sustainable ingredients focusing on unusual and inventive presentation. Her recipes reflect those used in Atelier Crenn, giving poetic names to her dishes such as ‘A Walk in the Forest’ and ‘The Sea’. With such creativity going on in her kitchens, Dominique Crenn continues to push not only the senses, but the emotions of her diners producing sustainable dishes that once she’s finished adding her own unique twist become nothing short of masterpieces.