THE ÉLECTRONS LIBRES TAKE -2–AMERICAN CHEF: DOMINIQUE CRENN
The Électrons Libres, is a group of chefs that are as individual or a leaders of a group have taken a unique route that goes beyond the learning process. Their philosophy transforms the cuisine of the present time as well as the cuisine of the future in a specific area (place) or country. Sometimes they are the leaders of a culinary movement but often, they are alone in their search.
In the USA, San Francisco occupies a unique place in the world of gastronomy. Aside from being the birthplace of different culinary movements and the place of the ‘’locavores’’, San Francisco has seen very talented chefs emerge.
(La) chef Dominique Crenn is one of those chefs that go beyond the trend bistronomie-locavore-casual. With its French roots and his travels, the chef decided last year to open L’Atelier Crenn, a fine dining restaurant with a tasting menu inspired and constantly evolving.
We can say that Dominique Crenn took classes at the restaurant Luce (Intercontinental Hotel, San Francisco) with a passage at the Intercontinental of Jakarta. Despite her star (Étoile) to Luce, it’s never easy to develop a unique signature with the obligations of a hotel restaurant. This is one reason for the opening of Atelier Crenn last year.
The chef who had the good fortune to grow up between the French countryside (Brittany) and great cuisine, with a politician father and epicurean, has developed a cuisine inspired by her memories of childhood and nature. A cuisine with a very high level of technical (French & Molecular), but where it remains “Technique”! Nature, the aromas, the purity of flavors remain the masters. This is a cuisine where we dive into the “essence” of the chef Crenn, in her poetry, her memories.
Definitely an experience to try with a chef in constant evolution!
Q+A WITH DOMINIQUE CRENN (www.ateliercrenn.com ):
1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine and what is it main characteristics? What is the concept behind Atelier Crenn?
DCrenn- The concept of Atelier Crenn is a workshop. When I was little, my late father had a studio that he called “Atelier Papa Crenn.” I loved spending time there, and learning about art. The space is an homage to that memory. The philosophy of our cuisine is French Moderne. I have aways been inspired by the imperfection of nature. My plates are organic in their nature, they give a sense of place. I want to create more than a great meal, I want to create an experience.
2-(Scoffier) Do you have a flavour or taste from your childhood in France that is again memorable?
DCrenn- When I was little, I would spend the summer on a potato farm. We would dig the potatoes out of the earth, and cook them over a fire in that same hole. This is a strong memory of mine, and therefore have created a dish called New Potatoes, “Memoire d’Enfance”. It is a dish that constantly evolves with seasonal ingredients, but always centered around the humble potato- I pull flavor combinations from my childhood and update them.
3-(Scoffier) Do you have a particular foods (or products) that you often use in your recipes?
DCrenn- I love vegetables. The bounty of nature is always so inspiring. Even though I may manipulate the forms of them, I still focus on keeping the integrity of the vegetable.
4-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires your cuisine?
DCrenn- Michel Bras and Olivier Roellinger have inspired me ever since I began showing an interest in food.
5-(Scoffier) You work as a chef for the Intercontinental Hotel in Jakarta. What remains (in your cuisine) of the Indonesian experience?
DCrenn- I still subscribe to a very asian influenced method of dining. I prefer to have many small courses, that tell a story, rather than a large plate of food. It is about balance, both within the plate itself, and over the course of the meal.
6-(Scoffier) How do you develop your recipes for your Tasting menu? What are your source(s) of inspiration?
DCrenn- I love my tasting menu, like I said earlier, I draw my inspirations though memories, so that I can create a sense of place. To have a piece of trout on a plate is not enough. Why is that trout there? What else would be around the trout in it’s natural environment? It is drawing from influences, cultures, and places.
7-(Scoffier) I saw your menu and your recipe “Walk in the Forest”. Have you been influenced by René Redzepi and also, what we call “Natural cuisine movement” ?
DCrenn- I think that René and I have similar ways of thinking. The natural cuisine movement is a very complex way of thinking. If you look at the cuisine that René puts out, it can be so whimsical and tounge in cheek. I love that, but it’s not my particular style. I like to draw on emotions, on memories. A Walk in the Forest, for example- it is intended to give the experience of wandering through a dark forest, foraging for food. There is a whiff of smoke (was there a forest fire nearby?), there are oil and herbs mixed in with all these different fungi, just as they would be in nature. I love that dish!
8-(Scoffier) San Francisco is one of the most dynamic and creative city in USA for the restaurant’s scene. In your opinion, what makes such city so unique (“culinairement parlant”)?
DCrenn- I feel that for a while, San Francisco was stuck in the “California cuisine” movement. There is nothing wrong with that style, but there needs to be variety. If you look at a city like San Sebastian, there are so many great chefs that are pushing boundaries, and creating amazing dishes. I think that the new generation of chefs here in San Francisco are starting to think the same way. It is very refreshing to see a variety of new cuisines starting to take shape in this city. I feel that San Francisco will become a top dining destination in the world, very soon.
9-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that is characterized the cuisine of Dominique Crenn?
DCrenn- Recipe: Walk in the Forest
10-(Scoffier) What are your goals (ambitions) as chef and for your restaurant? Do you think about write a book, a television show, others?
DCrenn- I am currently working on a book. It will not be a recipe-based book, however. I want to highlight the creative process that occurs, when two chefs collaborate. It will be about the dialogues, the processes, the merging of creative minds. I am very excited.
RECIPE: WALK IN THE FOREST
-Pumpernickel Soil: 5 pieces pumpernickel bread-1 g salt
-Hazelnut Praline: 200 g blanched filberts-300 g blended oil
-Sorrel Oil: 4 bu sorrel-150 g blended oil
-Foraged Mushrooms: clean wild mushrooms
-Mushroom Paper: 100 g mushroom puree-50 g isomalt
-Dehydrated Mushrooms: 50 g isomalt-100 g water-24 ea thinly sliced wild mushrooms
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