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20 Questions: Dominique Crenn

The founder and three-Michelin starred chef behind Atelier Crenn shares her favorite things. 

Illustration by Graham Smith

Having cooked in San Francisco since the late 1980s, Dominique Crenn became a culinary star soon after she opened Atelier Crenn there in 2011. The 24-seat restaurant is a leader in creative, whimsical cuisine: Meals start with a poem that serves as an interpretive menu. Crenn, who was raised in Brittany, became the first woman in the U.S. to earn three Michelin stars when the guide’s 2019 list was released late last year.

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1. What are you reading?
A lot of poetry, especially Mary Oliver, who just passed away. I like to read what inspires me.

2. What’s your favorite city?
There are so many beautiful places, but obviously I love Paris. If those walls could talk…

3. How many days a year do you travel?
This year, just a few days here and there. I need to be at the farm, in the kitchen every night. This is my baby.

4. Do you fly private or commercial?
Private occasionally but mostly commercial. I’m simple. I love JetBlue, Lufthansa. I can’t stand it when an airline treats business class one way and coach an entirely different way. It should be about hospitality, wherever you sit.

5. Other than your phone, what do you never travel without?
I always have a book with me and something to write on.

6. What’s your favorite movie?
Cinema Paradiso. It’s a beautiful story about generations coming together, having a conversation.

7. TV show?
I don’t watch TV. Netflix sometimes.

8. Beer, wine or spirits? What brand?
Oh, rosé all day long. Bandol.

9. What’s your go-to meal?
Fresh oysters, with a glass of rosé. And I love bagels. I was just in Brooklyn and I had a toasted bagel with butter, cream cheese, tomatoes and salt and pepper. I left the restaurant—and turned around to get another one. Delicious.

10. Your favorite restaurant, outside of your own?
I can’t tell you that. But the truth is, there are many, all over the world.

11. Who’s your biggest culinary influence?
Probably chef Olivier Roellinger and his Maisons de Bricourt in Cancale, Brittany (it’s closed now). Everything he does has a purpose.

12. Your watch of choice?
Audemars Piguet. I’m an ambassador for the brand, but I wore them before that too. The craftsmanship is amazing and the watches are so beautiful.

13. Favorite designer?
Phillip Lim. And I love Coco Chanel, but it’s more about the woman than the design.

14. What do you drive?
A little Smart car. And a Lexus SUV—I work with them too. My dream is to drive only electric cars—San Francisco is working on getting more outlets.

15. If your house were on fire, what object would you save?
My collection of Nina Simone on vinyl.

16. What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?
My father’s death. Everything else is just an opportunity to become better.

17. What keeps you up at night?
The state of humanity. I’m not kidding.

18. What’s your favorite philanthropy?
I work with many. The areas I focus on are women’s rights, children and the environment/climate change.

19. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
From my father: “You aren’t better than anyone else, but no one is better than you either. Go out and kick some ass.”

20. How would you like to be remembered?
As someone who used her platform to help others.

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