Atelier Crenn: Metamorphosis of Taste

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The debut cookbook from the first female chef in America to earn two Michelin stars

Atelier Crenn is the debut cookbook of Dominique Crenn, the first female chef in America to be awarded two Michelin stars—and arguably the greatest female chef in the country. This gorgeous book traces Crenn’s rise from her childhood in France to her unprecedented success with her own restaurant, Atelier Crenn, in San Francisco. Crenn’s food is centered around organic, sustainable ingredients with an unusual, inventive, and always stunning presentation. To put it simply, Crenn’s dishes are works of art. 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.

From the Publisher

A conversation with Dominique Crenn

The Michelin-starred chef and debut cookbook author chatted about food culture in her native France and the United States, what she wants people to take away from a meal at her restaurant, and more, with Harold McGee, celebrated author of On Food and Cooking.

You grew up in France, with a rich food culture. Why did you become a professional chef in the US?

It’s true, France has an incredible food culture, and it is still the deepest source of inspiration for me as a chef. French food made me who I am, nourishing my body and soul in my youth, but French restaurant culture is not always so nurturing, especially for women. In my twenties, I discovered that restaurants in France would only consider me for the front of house, so I moved to San Francisco, where I started cooking professionally. And I’m glad I did, because emigrating gave me the psychological distance I needed to let my memories rest a bit and the freedom and space I needed to express my own creativity.

Is there an underlying quality or theme or style that you think characterizes the food you cook?

As a chef, it’s important to me that my food is always personal, that it draws on memories and emotions. What you see on the plate will not be the same, but my approach is always from the heart. That’s the way that we cook, and I hope and believe that it comes through in the food.

What kind of experience do you try to create for people who come to Atelier Crenn?

I think the best way to describe it is as a great conversation, a true dialogue. Like when people come together to talk and listen, and are really open to another perspective. It’s fun to discover what makes another person tick—and so important. At the restaurant, I want my guests to be open to new things and to understand my food as a way of connecting with them.

What do you want diners to remember of their tasting menu experience at Atelier Crenn?

It’s definitely satisfying to hear that a diner has been thinking about Atelier Crenn the next day, or beyond, and though it’s not something I expect, I’ve run into a few different people recently who told me about their experience of eating my dish ‘A Walk in the Forest,’ and how it evoked memories of nature for them. In those moments, I feel like I’ve done something right.

And I suppose I do want diners to immerse themselves in the experience of Atelier Crenn. That’s why I love designing dishes to be eaten with the hands, because it makes the sensations so much more immediate. Using a device to take a picture gets in the way of enjoyment—and that’s one reason I’m so happy to have such a beautiful book, with all the photography by Ed Anderson, so there’s a visual record that doesn’t compete with the experience of dining at Atelier Crenn.

Which part of creating dishes do you find most rewarding? The inspiration, developing, eating?

Well, all of it! For me, it’s all part of an ongoing dialogue that we accomplish through food. If I had to choose, I’d say that the two most important moments are inspiration and presentation, which are the beginning and the end of the process. Each relies on the other for its fullest meaning, and for me, they are what cooking is all about.

Atelier Crenn: Metamorphosis of Taste
Atelier Crenn: Metamorphosis of Taste
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