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

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - Contents - Pho­to­graph by Aya Brack­ett

“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 be­ingplated.

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'refresh-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.

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