Dominique Crenn

in conversation with Mark Nieker

Recorded June 27th, 2020

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Dominique Crenn
in conversation with Mark Nieker

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Dominique Crenn’s Rebel Chef is an honest, revealing look at one woman’s evolution from a daring young chef to a respected activist–all as she makes a place for herself in the kitchen, and in the world. Her previous debut cookbook, Atelier Crenn documents Dominique’s rise from her childhood in France to her unprecedented success with her own restaurant, Atelier Crenn, in San Francisco.

Dominique inherited an interest in cuisine from her parents, who celebrated fine dining. After growing up in France and earning degrees in economics and business in Paris, Dominique began her formal kitchen training in San Francisco in 1988. For two years she worked at Jeremiah Tower and Mark Franz’s Stars before moving on to Campton Place, 2223 Market, the Park Hyatt Grill, and Yoyo Bistro.

In 1997, she made culinary history as the first female executive chef in Indonesia, heading the kitchen at the InterContinental Hotel in Jakarta. She returned to California in 1998 as executive chef of Manhattan Country Club in Manhattan Beach, a position Dominique held for eight years. She then opened Abode in Santa Monica, but it was Luce that brought her back to San Francisco and where she earned her first Michelin star in 2009.

A poetic combination of craft, heritage, and storytelling, Atelier Crenn debuted in January 2011, quickly earning its first Michelin star and a second by October 2012. Dominique is the first female chef in the United States to receive a second coveted star and has maintained the distinction through 2018. She was named “Best Female Chef” in 2016 by World’s 50 Best.

Fashioned after the food of her childhood in Brittany, she opened Petit Crenn in 2015, followed by Bar Crenn in 2018.

“I thought that maybe the hard lessons we have to learn in life were over, at least for a moment.  I was ready to dance, to travel, to love, to create.

But it seems that we are being called to do something else right now.  We’re being asked to nurture.”

– Chef Dominique Crenn

In Rebel Chef, Dominique Crenn reflects on her untraditional coming-of-age as a chef, beginning with her happy childhood in Versailles where, as the adopted daughter of a politician, she was emboldened to be curious and independent, and to find her own voice. She was exposed to fine dining from a young age, and a family friend, a restaurant critic, encouraged her to see the story behind the food. But at twenty-one, after deciding to become a chef, Dominique found it to be a near impossible dream in France, where men dominated the kitchens. Never one to be told no, she moved to San Francisco to work under the legendary Jeremiah Tower. It was there that her training began.

But there is another reason Dominique has always felt free to pursue her own unconventional course. Adopted as a toddler, she didn’t resemble her parents, or even look traditionally French. Growing up she often felt like an outsider, and was haunted by a past she knew nothing about. But after years of working to fill this blank space, she recognized this duality as a source of strength, one which gives her the power to be whoever she wants to be.

Filled with stories from the years Dominique spent working in the male-centric world of professional kitchens, tracking her career from struggling cook to being named the World’s Best Female Chef, starring on Netflix’s Chef’s Table, and running one of the world’s most acclaimed restaurants – while at the same time speaking out on restaurant culture, sexism, immigration, and climate change – Rebel Chef is an honest and revealing look at one woman’s evolution from a daring young chef to a respected activist. At once a tale of personal discovery and a tribute to unrelenting determination, Rebel Chef is the story of one woman making a place for herself in the kitchen, and in the world.

Her previous debut cookbook, Atelier Crenn is the gorgeous book that traces Dominique’s rise from her childhood in France to her unprecedented success with her own restaurant, Atelier Crenn, in San Francisco. Dominique’s food is centered around organic, sustainable ingredients with an unusual, inventive, and always stunning presentation. Her recipes reflect her poetic nature with evocative names like “A Walk in the Forest,” “Birth,” and “The Sea.” Even the dishes that sound familiar, like Fish and Chips, or Broccoli and Beef Tartare, challenge the expected with their surprising components and her signature creative plating. This impressive and beautiful cookbook by a chef who is often the only woman to be mentioned in the same breath with other culinary giants is bound to captivate the food world.

Visit the Book Passage website to have any of Dominique’s books delivered right to your door.

You’re sure to enjoy these Book Passage favorites:

Rebel Chef:In Search of What Matters

Dominique Crenn

Atelier Crenn: Metamorphosis of Taste

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Get ready to join Dominique in conversation, Saturday, June 27th.

In the meantime, we invite you to take a moment now to help shape this upcoming conversation.

Check out the list of questions submitted by other registered attendees, and then vote to support any of the ones that match your own interests.

Feel free to add your own question. Then spread the word to make sure others have the chance to help move your question to the top of the shared list.

  • 8

    votes

    As an artist you are constantly inventing new things and experimenting, and as a successful restauranteur you are tasked with delivering a consistent elevated experience to your patrons. Do you ever find yourself caught between these two realms? If so, how do you overcome the challenges in balancing between these two realms?

  • 7

    votes

    What experiences in your early years in France helped to define your approach to creating a meal?

  • 7

    votes

    How has your approach to sustainability evolved in recent years?

  • 7

    votes

    Where do you find inspiration?

  • 7

    votes

    Can you talk a little about how the pandemic has impacted your efforts in San Francisco, and what you expect in the coming months?

  • 7

    votes

    What do you think is the future of restaurants in the Bay Area given the era of the pandemic?

  • 7

    votes

    When did you first become involved in social justice causes and have you always felt comfortable speaking out?

  • 6

    votes

    How have you and your employees coped with all the uncertainty of the pandemic?

  • 6

    votes

    As a fellow cancer conquerer, What was your biggest takeaway, how has it changed you ?

  • 5

    votes

    What do you view as a pivotal experience or decision in your career?

  • 5

    votes

    What advice would you give anyone starting their own business?

  • 4

    votes

    What gives you hope in these times?

  • 3

    votes

    Did you have a favorite cookbook when you were young?

  • 3

    votes

    Read any good books lately?

  • 1

    votes

    How do you reconcile the price of food at your restaurants and your view of the community? How do you make your food accessible to all?

  • 1

    votes

    Do you think you will serve meat in the future and what would be the criteria or standards?

  • 1

    votes

    Do you have a timeline for the re-start-up and completion of your cafe inside the Salesforce Tower lobby?

  • 1

    votes

    How do you balance your creative desire with the need to attract customers and be profitable?

  • 1

    votes

    Chefs and fans around the world recently celebrated the anniversary of Anthony Bourdain’s passing. Do you have a favorite memory of him?

  • 0

    votes

    currently what are your favorite cookbooks?

  • 0

    votes

    No question, just wanted to vote, but I got an error message when I tried to submit leaving this blank.

  • 0

    votes

    Mine overlapped so upvoted my faves. This is my third attempt. Always get error!! Looking forward!!

  • 0

    votes

    Has being adopted affected your attitudes toward life? If so, in what ways?

  • 0

    votes

    I can’t hear Elaine. I’ve attended many of these.

  • 0

    votes

    Why am I unable to join?

  • 0

    votes

    Not getting the sound.

  • 0

    votes

    Can you remove your hat?