For this chef, “it’s not just putting food on a plate. It’s also storytelling”
To please the palate, chef DOMINIQUE CRENN first captivates the eye By Howard Chua-eoan
“The visuals must trigger something in your mind, condition you to what you experience. It's not just putting food on a plate. It's also storytelling.”
Dominique Crenn was born in France and studied business. After she moved to the U.S., she found her calling in haute cuisine. Her San Francisco restaurant Atelier Crenn has garnered two Michelin stars since it opened in 2011. Crenn will be featured in the second season of Chef’s Table on Netflix, which starts on May 27.
AtATELIER CRENN, diners are presented with a poem, not a menu. Each verse arrives as a dish created by the chef's team. Walk in the Forest is a dessert version of a savory dish the restaurant served when it first opened. Pastry chef Juan Contreras suggested the revival. It evokes Crenn's memories of mushroom- and berry-hunting excursions in the French woods with her father and brother. Customers, she says, are interested in the narrative and the journey. “It's all part of an expanse,” she says. The dessert has “the texture, sweetness, and bitterness of what the forest is about.”
“I don't want cooks to be just workers. I want them to be thinkers. I want them to be proud about the dishes they create.”
● Some dishes can take months to come to fruition, particularly the desserts. Walk in the Forest was a three-month endeavor, because Crenn and her team were quite specific about how they envisioned it being
The dessert becomes even more of a woodland fantasy when it's finished with fresh sorrel leaves and pine nuts.
The mousse is sliced into a cake-like square, set in a ceramic vessel, and drizzled with blackberry sauce.
Next the cake is decorated with dehydrated blackberries that have been cast in molds and reconstituted with cultured buttermilk, to appear as if they're
fresh-picked. ● Sorrel extract, drawn from the plant's bitter stems, is blended into a sweet mixture that's frozen to create an airy mousse.
Pat Parker, a ceramicist in Florida, designed the bowl to imitate the grain and color of the trees in Brittany, where Crenn spent her childhood.