Dominique Crenn is the chef and owner of the three-Michelin-starred restaurant Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, where artistry is at the forefront, cuisine is a craft, and the community is an inspiration.
She also uses her talent as a chef to spotlight the fight against cancer, particularly breast cancer. She herself is a breast cancer survivor.
As she became the first female chef in the U.S. to receive three Michelin stars, she is one of the stars of the culinary scene. Now she’s lending her talents to Breast Cancer Awareness during “Pinktober.” Crenn has teamed up with Hard Rock Cafés around the globe to create a dish, featured in every restaurant, with a portion of the proceeds from each location’s sales going to support the fight against breast cancer in their community. Here in Florida, that is the Hard Rock Café at the Guitar Hotel.
Crenn, originally from Locronan, was adopted by a French couple from Versailles. She developed a love of international food from her mother, whom she describes as having an "adventurous palate,” who took her young daughter to experience Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese restaurants in Paris. Her father would take his daughter along when he dined at Michelin-star restaurants with a friend who was a food critic for Le Télégramme.
With such a background, it was, perhaps, inevitable, that he went into the hospitality industry. However, her independent spirit didn’t lend itself to the male-dominated French culinary scene. Instead, she earned a bachelor's degree in economics and a master's degree in international business. Yet, the siren call of the restaurant business was too strong to ignore.
Crenn moved to the U.S. to pursue her culinary aspirations. Her first restaurant position was at Stars, a prominent restaurant in San Francisco run by celebrity chef Jeremiah Tower. After two years, she moved on to work at other acclaimed restaurants before taking a position as head chef for the restaurant in the Intercontinental Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia. She was Indonesia's first-ever female head chef; civil unrest forced her to leave the country in 1998.
Returning to California as executive chef for Manhattan Country Club in Manhattan Beach, California and then at Abode Restaurant and Lounge in Santa Monica, California. In 2008, management at Intercontinental Hotel offered her a new position, and she joined Luce in San Francisco where she was awarded her first Michelin star in 2009.
Driven by her passion to create a deeply personal project, Crenn opened Atelier Crenn in January 2011. The restaurant was awarded its first Michelin star in October of 2011. In the following year, Crenn made history again when Atelier Crenn received its second Michelin star, becoming the first female chef in the U.S. to receive this honor. In November 2018, Crenn beat her own record and became the first female chef in the U.S. to receive three Michelin stars.
Chef Crenn, who is engaged to actor/producer Maria Bello, has found strength in her partner. The couple, who got engaged in December 2019 while vacationing in Paris, had to deal with Crenn’s cancer diagnosis almost immediately after they got together.
“Dom was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after we fell in love. So, it’s been quite a year,” Bello, 52, said.
Crenn said that she tried to warn Bello of what her cancer would mean for their relationship. “She’s like, ‘I’m here and I’m going to be here for all the time during the time of this’ and she’s been by my side,” Crenn said. “She’s been there.”
Bello said, “You really learn how someone rolls when they’re sick. And I loved the way she rolls through life and dances through life even when she’s really sick.”
Determined to beat the illness, Crenn adopted a change in diet, cutting all land-animal food sources from her diet and embracing fish rich in fatty omega-3s. She also filled her diet with vegetables from her Bleu Belle Farm, located in Somalia. After undergoing chemotherapy for eight months, coupled with her healthy diet, she went into total remission. That period was notably the toughest in Crenn's life. Her dedication to family is what keeps her going.
“We have two 7-year-old daughters, Charlotte, and Olivia. I want to set a good example for them.”
The special Pinktober menu is available through the end of October at the Hard Rock Café, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood, 954-315-9112, https://www.hardrockcafe.com/location/hollywood-fl/.