‘Grace, artistry’ = 3 Miche­lin stars

Crenn be­comes first fe­male chef in U.S. to at­tain cov­eted level

The Mercury News Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - By Linda Za­vo­ral lza­vo­[email protected] ba­yare­anews­group.com

Chef Do­minique Crenn is of­fi­cially the crème de la crème.

Bay Area din­ers and crit­ics have long be­lieved that Crenn’s artistry at Ate­lier Crenn put her among the ranks of the world’s top chefs. On Thurs­day, the Miche­lin Guide made that of­fi­cial: She is the first fe­male chef in the United States to earn three Miche­lin stars with her restau­rant staff.

Make that four stars. Crenn’s new­est ven­ture, a wine bar called Bar Crenn, also won a Miche­lin star.

“Con­grat­u­la­tions to my amaz­ing team,” Crenn posted on In­sta­gram, along with footage of her and her staff scream­ing in jublila­tion upon re­ceiv­ing the news.

It was a “unan­i­mous de­ci­sion” by Miche­lin in­spec­tors to el­e­vate Ate­lier Crenn to the cov­eted three- star level, Gwen­dal Poul­len­nec, Miche­lin’s in­ter­na­tional di­rec­tor, said Thurs­day morn­ing. “The menu dis­plays a bal­ance of grace, artistry, tech­ni­cal abil­ity and taste.”

Al­though Miche­lin stars are awarded to the en­tire restau­rant team and not to in­di­vid­ual chefs, the news about Crenn is “very in­spir­ing,” he said. She be­comes only the sixth woman world­wide to ever achieve this dis­tinc­tion.

“It sends a very posi-

tive mes­sage,” Poul­len­nec said. “We hope it will lead to more women op­er­at­ing their own restau­rants” and choos­ing the culi­nary field as a ca­reer.

Crenn’s suc­cess capped a big day for Bay Area restau­rants and chefs. When these Academy Awards of the fine- din­ing world were an­nounced, five restau­rants — in­clud­ing a new one in Palo Alto — won their first Miche­lin star, and a Wine Coun­try restau­rant was el­e­vated from two to three stars.

All told, 57 Bay Area restau­rants re­ceived Miche­lin Guide stars, the high­est ac­co­lade in the culi­nary world. It’s the most stars ever for this re­gion.

And Poul­len­nec be­lieves that num­ber will rise in the com­ing years, not­ing that the Bay Area has the de­sir­able com­bi­na­tion of ex­cel­lent pro­duce and highly skilled chefs.

“You have plenty of young lo­cal tal­ent,” he said. “The story’s not over.”

Among the other head­lines in the Miche­lin news an­nounced Thurs­day:

• New star in Palo Alto: On the Penin­sula, Protégé — a restau­rant launched by alumni of Thomas Keller’s three-star French Laun­dry in the Napa Val­ley — made an im­pres­sive de­but, re­ceiv­ing a star just months after pre­sent­ing its “new Amer­i­can” cui­sine to Palo Alto. Mas­ter som­me­lier Den­nis Kelly and ex­ec­u­tive chef An­thony Secviar, the co- own­ers, have taken a blended ap­proach to this en­deavor, with a prix fixe menu in the high- end din­ing room and a la carte of­fer­ings in the restau­rant’s lounge and bar.

“The Palo Alto team uses tech­nique and a level of fi­nesse to pre­pare con­sis­tently ex­cel­lent meals, while the din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence re­mains ca­sual and ap­proach­able,” the Miche­lin in­spec­tors said.

Protégé’s star gives the 200 block of Cal­i­for­nia Av- enue a to­tal of three Miche­lin stars. Baumé, chef Bruno Chemel’s two- star restau­rant, sits just across the street.

• Adega loses star: San Jose’s first one-star restau­rant, Adega, lost the star it ac­quired in 2017 and re­tained in 2018. This fam­i­lyrun ven­ture in the city’s Lit­tle Por­tu­gal neigh­bor­hood, with chefs David Costa and Jes­sica Car­reira at the helm, was only the sec­ond Por­tuguese restau­rant in the United States to be so hon­ored.

“Re­mov­ing a star is al­ways an ex­tremely dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion,” Poul­len­nec said, and es­pe­cially so in the case of this “charm­ing Por­tuguese restau­rant.” But after mul­ti­ple visits, he said, “the Miche­lin in­spec­tors felt it was no longer up to global one-star stan­dards.”

How­ever, Poul­len­nec said, “The Miche­lin Guide is al­ways very re­ac­tive. We will con­tinue to fol­low (Adega) over the next year.”

• Other losses: Coi in San Fran­cisco dropped a notch, from three stars to two, af- ter a change in chef and menu di­rec­tion. And Ter­rapin Creek in Bodega Bay lost its star be­cause the Miche­lin in­spec­tors thought the food lacked its pre­vi­ous “spark and qual­ity,” Poul­len­nec said.

• An­other “three” in Wine Coun­try: Be­sides Ate­lier Crenn, the other new­comer to the three- star ranks was Sin­gle-Thread in Healds­burg. This un­usual farm- restau­rant- inn en­deavor by chef Kyle Con­naughton and farmer-wife Katina Con­naughton made news last year by jump­ing onto the list at the two-star level. This year, Miche­lin called it a “pow­er­house project,” thanks to that lo­cal pro­duce and “ex­cep­tion­ally re­fined cui­sine.”

• Suc­cess begets suc­cess: Two of this year’s one-star new­com­ers are helmed by chefs who cut their teeth at other Miche­lin restau­rants. At Nico in San Fran­cisco’s Fi­nan­cial Dis­trict, the Paris-trained Ni­co­las De­laroque blends French tech­nique with Cal­i­for­nia in­gre­di­ents in a bistro set- ting. He pre­vi­ously worked with Crenn and Man­resa’s David Kinch. He met his chef de cui­sine, Reina Talanoa, while the two were work­ing at Man­resa. Across town in the SoMa neigh­bor­hood, chef Christo­pher Blei­dorn’s ex­pe­ri­ence at Ate­lier Crenn and Sai­son in­forms the menu at Bird­song, a restau­rant with North­west-in­spired cui­sine.

• Bay Area’s top stars still shine: The high­est-rated restau­rants in the South Bay, East Bay and on the Penin­sula re­tained their star sta­tus lev­els in the 2018 guide, in­clud­ing David Kinch’s three-star Man­resa in Los Gatos, James Sy­habout’s two- star Com­mis in Oak­land and Bruno Chemel’s two-star Baumé in Palo Alto.

• Seven of Sil­i­con Val­ley’s one- star restau­rants also re­tained their stars: Chez TJ ( Moun­tain View), Madera ( Menlo Park), Plumed Horse (Saratoga), Rasa ( Burlingame), Sushi Yoshizumi (San Ma­teo), the Vil­lage Pub ( Wood­side) and Wakuriya (San Ma­teo).

• Vet­eran chef’s solo ven­ture: Also new to the on­es­tar list is Mad­cap in Marin County’s San Anselmo. It’s the first solo ven­ture from chef Ron Siegel, a Bay Area vet­eran whose ré­sumé spans three decades of top Bay Area restau­rants, in­clud­ing Aqua, Charles Nob Hill, the French Laun­dry, the Ritz- Carl­ton and Michael Mina. Still, he may be best known as the first Amer­i­can chef to beat an “Iron Chef” on the orig­i­nal show. His menu, not sur­pris­ingly, com­bines Amer­i­can, Ja­panese and French in­flu­ences.

• Take that, New York: The num­ber of three­star awards gives the Bay Area brag­ging rights yet again. Last year, the re­gion bested New York City, long seen as its ri­val in the din­ing world, with seven of the top awards vs. five for New York restau­rants. This year, New York held steady at five while the Bay Area in­creased its count to eight.

DANIEL ZUCHNIK — GETTY IM­AGES

Do­minique Crenn’s suc­cess capped big day for Bay Area chefs.

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