The Crenn mo­ment

Chef Do­minique Crenn talks food pre­dic­tions, gen­der cook­ing and un­der­dogs.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Taste -

CHEF Do­minique Crenn has a bold pre­dic­tion about the next big food des­ti­na­tion. Give it a few more years, she said, and watch as the United States be­comes the next Den­mark.

That is, the most ex­cit­ing and dy­namic des­ti­na­tion in the culi­nary world for din­ing ex­pe­ri­ences.

In re­cent years, the rise of New Nordic cui­sine and the res­tau­rant Noma – which had been named the world’s best res­tau­rant four times be­fore it shut­tered in Fe­bru­ary – made Den­mark the hottest din­ing des­ti­na­tion in the world.

“I pre­dict that in the next few years, Amer­ica will have the best cui­sine in the world,” said Crenn in a phone in­ter­view from San Fran­cisco.

“This is such a young coun­try, but through the years, chefs have learned new skills all over the world and come back to cre­ate an ex­cit­ing cui­sine, with dif­fer­ent flavours and dif­fer­ent ap­proaches.”

One of Amer­ica’s great­est as­sets, she says, is the coun­try’s lack of culi­nary iden­tity and its clean slate.

“There are no rules. And when there are no rules, that en­ables cre­ativ­ity to the high­est lev­els.”

Male ver­sus fe­male cook­ing

Early in the con­ver­sa­tion, it’s clear that Crenn has an aver­sion for rules. And a par­tic­u­lar fond­ness for un­der­dogs.

Crenn her­self works in a male-dom­i­nated in­dus­try and boasts the ti­tle of high­est-ranked fe­male chef in the United States, with two Miche­lin stars for her San Fran­cisco res­tau­rant Ate­lier Crenn.

Last year, she was named the world’s best fe­male chef by the same peo­ple who or­gan­ise the World’s 50 Best Restau­rants, a con­tro­ver­sial ti­tle that has been crit­i­cised as sex­ist and con­de­scend­ing to fe­male chefs.

While her first in­stinct was to de­cline, Crenn says she changed her mind af­ter re­al­is­ing the award’s po­ten­tial as a plat­form to in­spire younger fe­male chefs.

But the sep­a­rate dis­tinc­tion given to fe­male chefs leads to the ques­tion, “Is there a dif­fer­ence in the way men and women cook?”

Crenn bris­tles at the no­tion and is quick to shoot down the idea.

She re­calls an­other ar­ti­cle in which a res­tau­rant critic at­trib­uted her suc­cess to cook­ing like a man and re­mem­bers how in­censed she was at the com­par­i­son.

“That’s like say­ing, is there a dif­fer­ence in the way a male pilot and a fe­male pilot fly a plane,” she says.

But fly­ing a plane isn’t an artis­tic en­deav­our. Crenn re­con­sid­ers the ques­tion and won­ders aloud if, men and women bring dif­fer­ent sen­si­bil­i­ties to cook­ing.

“Per­haps we bring dif­fer­ent emo­tions to cook­ing,” she says.

“I think women are in­clined to look at things with more pur­pose be­cause of our sen­si­bil­ity. We want things to con­nect and come to­gether.”

The menu at Ate­lier Crenn, for in­stance, is fa­mously known as po­etic culi­naria, as each dish is ac­com­pa­nied by lines of her own po­etry and rep­re­sents mem­o­ries from her child­hood.

“Ev­ery dish is very con­nected to my own ex­pe­ri­ences. Per­haps I go deeper in the de­scrip­tion and feel­ing in the dish than a male chef would. But it’s dif­fi­cult to say.”

Com­edy and char­ity in Crenn’s fu­ture

It’s a sim­i­lar kind of modus operandi Crenn brings to other her other en­deav­ors – one that val­ues con­nec­tion, pur­pose, and roots for the un­der­dog.

As one of the jury mem­bers who will be choos­ing this year’s re­cip­i­ent for the Basque Culi­nary World Prize, Crenn makes it clear the kind of can­di­date she’ll be favour­ing, and the kind she’ll be pass­ing over.

“I want this prize to go to some­one who doesn’t have a voice. To

Among oth­ers, Crenn is work­ing on a com­edy show about life as a fe­male chef. — Pho­tos: AFP

Crenn’s work of­ten sym­bol­ises ‘the con­junc­tion of art and na­ture’, like in her For­est dessert.

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