Dining Out 3 minutes 13 May 2019

Eating Off Duty with Dominique Crenn

We explore where and what celebrated chefs eat outside their kitchens.

Dominique Crenn is best known as the co-owner and chef of Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, which opened in January 2011 and went on to earn its first MICHELIN star later that year. The restaurant moved up to two stars in the next edition of the guide, and earned the coveted three MICHELIN stars in the most recent selection announced this past November, cementing Crenn as the first female chef in the U.S. to do so.

Crenn grew up in Brittany, France, where she became interested in cuisine from her parents, who celebrated fine dining. Her politician father’s best friend was a well-respected French food critic who exposed her from a young age to many of the region’s best restaurants. But it was in San Francisco where she began her formal training as a chef. In 1988, she moved from France to the City by the Bay and worked under Jeremiah Tower and Mark Franz at lauded restaurant Stars for two years.

Crenn took a nearly decade-long break from San Francisco and headed to Indonesia, where she became the first female executive chef in Jakarta to head of the kitchen at the InterContinental Hotel. After which, she returned to San Francisco in 2008 to lead the kitchen at Luce in the city's InterContinental Hotel. It was there that she got her first taste of MICHELIN-stardom when the restaurant earned a star in both 2009 and 2010.

From there she ventured our on her own with Atelier Crenn, and following its success came the ode-to-home-cooking-of-Brittany Petit Crenn in the summer of 2015. She published her debut cookbook, Atelier Crenn: Metamorphosis of Taste, that same year.

Most recently, she opened Bar Crenn, a wine bar that pays homage to Parisian salons of the early twentieth century. Later this year she will open Boutique Crenn at the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, a sustainable fast-meets-fine-dining boulangerie-pâtisserie with fashion and art, with a thread of sustainability tying these elements together.

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Thinking .. about humanity and the planet...

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What was the last thing you ate?
A butter croissant from Arsicault Bakery in San Francisco. It’s the best croissant in San Francisco—until Boutique Crenn is open.

It's your day off. What do you have for breakfast and where?
I usually make a toasted sesame bagel (with housemade butter from Atelier Crenn), cream cheese, tomato, salt and pepper. Sometimes I will add a sunny-side up egg. Our butter is fermented with a little bit of bleu cheese. Otherwise, I’ll use French butter from Brittany or Normandy.

Controversial question: Do you believe in brunch?
Yes! I like to go to Hog Island Oyster Co. to get oysters for brunch. Yes, I have oysters for brunch—it’s the best thing in the world (paired with a nice bottle of rosé).

What is your 2:00 a.m. go-to food?
I make a tomato soup or grilled cheese sandwich. It’s usually some leftover brioche that I bring home from work. I’ll cook it in a pan with butter, and use three different cheeses like Comté, a dry one like Pecorino and add some triple cream cow's milk cheese or I balance it with goat cheese. Sometimes bleu cheese too. I cook both sides of the brioche in the pan and finish it in the oven and then sprinkle more cheese on top. Sometimes I will also add in-season tomato jam.

What is your local coffee shop and what do you order?
We are across the street from Rapha, a bicycle place with a coffee shop. I drink a lot of tea right now. Their turmeric and rose tea is delicious, but I also love a regular black coffee.

Where do you go when you travel to your favorite city?
San Sebastián, Spain, is one of my favorite cities to eat—all the restaurants are amazing. Of course I love to go to Paris, too. Honestly, Le Comptoir is one of my favorites—it’s very simple. I went to Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York and I loved it. Also, Osteria Mozza and Bestia in Los Angeles.

What is the "laziest" meal you put together for yourself this past week?
My version of a pu pu platter. I took some anchovies, sardines, Romesco sauce, olives, cornichons, cheese and smoked fish, and put it on a plate with French baguette. Sometimes there's also rillette. I think to myself, "Oh my god, I am such a good cook," but it’s really just things that you get from the market.

A pu pu platter for me is whatever I have in my fridge. It allows you to use whatever you have at home and not waste anything. It allows you to be creative with what you have.

What is your favorite snack food?
Easy! Chocolate. Super dark. My pastry chef Juan makes the best.

What is your guilty pleasure?
A spicy lamb merguez with French baguette and French mustard.

Photo by Nicole Mackinlay Hahn.

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