Dominique Crenn: An Homage to Good Food

Atelier Crenn made a name for itself with a multi-course tasting menu experience at 325 dollars and dishes garnished with gold leaf. But French restaurant owner and chef Dominique Crenn is now putting her talents into simpler things. Her new restaurant, Bar Crenn, set to open in San Francisco on February 20, promises to serve the standards of the French culinary canon.

In the episode of Netflix series Chef’s Table about her, Dominique Crenn describes what she calls “culinary poetry.” Viewers were treated to scenes of a dish christened “A Walk in the Forest,” which featured meringue with pine needles and mint leaves, served with mushrooms and blackberries in a dish crafted in bark. And it is exactly this lyricism and daring that earned the French chef two Michelin stars and the title of “World’s Best Female Chef.”

Raised in Brittany by her father, a politician, and her mother, a gourmet, the young Dominique originally dreamed of becoming a photographer. But after being rejected from the Louis-Lumière school in Lyon, she decided to study economics in Paris. In 1998, she moved to San Francisco and found a job as part of Jeremiah Tower’s kitchen brigade at the Stars restaurant — one of the pioneers of the farm-to-table movement in California along with Chez Panisse. “I then started to develop my own cooking style,” says the Frenchwoman. “I had no culinary training, which it why I am so drawn to traditional dishes: I never learned how to make them, other than with my mother and my grandmother.”

Classic dishes, technique, and tradition are going to be the watchwords at Bar Crenn, the chef’s third restaurant. With 26 seats, a selection of French and Californian biodynamic wines, and interior design inspired by the Roaring Twenties, the new space will be opening on Fillmore Street in San Francisco on February 20.

France-Amérique: How will Bar Crenn be different from your first two restaurants?

Dominique Crenn: If you think of Atelier Crenn as a house, and Petit Crenn as a garden shed, then Bar Crenn will be a living room. Atelier Crenn represents my dreams, my poetry, and the way I see the world. Petit Crenn is my tribute to Breton culture, seafood, and the cuisine of my childhood. And Bar Crenn is my homage to French gastronomy.

You are switching from molecular recipes and using liquid nitrogen to cooking the “classics of French gastronomy.” Why such a shift?

Over the last few years, the public has turned away from typical French cuisine. Even bistro fare, which can be enjoyed in every major American city, is no longer representative of French culture. I wanted to pay homage to the masters who made French gastronomy an international art. At Bar Crenn I will be cooking a selection of standards with my own personal twist, such as pot-au-feu, soufflé, île flottante, cannelés de Bordeaux, and my mother’s tarte Tatin  — but there will also be 35 recipes passed down to me by renowned chefs.

Your restaurant showcases the cuisine of other chefs. What’s the story behind this concept?

Last September, I was one of 180 chefs invited to cook at the Elysée Palace by Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron. While in the palace kitchens, I noticed there were a lot of traditional dishes being cooked. I mentioned it to the resident chef, Guillaume Gomez, and he replied, “That’s what we do here at the Elysée.” That was what gave me the idea for Bar Crenn, and so I asked some of the most talented chefs to contribute a recipe to my menus. Depending on the seasons and the ingredients available, I will be serving pike dumplings with Nantua sauce by Alain Ducasse, black truffle soup by Paul Bocuse, a triplet of eggs mimosa by Eric Fréchon, and iced oysters by Guy Savoy. The dishes will be presented simply, but will require complex techniques to create.

Bar Crenn

3131 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, CA 94123
(415) 440-0460