Dominique Crenn is on fire at the moment. She was just announced Best Chef in the West at the James Beard Awards in Chicago, where she used the stage to passionately push her ideas, "food is activism" for Crenn and it's apparent every time she gets a platform to speak.
She's become a powerful advocate for equality in the kitchen, with a particular focus on gender equality and she's getting ready to launch a new memoir about her ideas and Boutique Crenn: a unique proposition to bring the world of art, fashion and food together under one roof.
Be yourself, be confident and makes sure that what you do is about your vision. Don’t try to do something that isn’t you.
I didn’t know anything and I didn’t know everything. I still have this same attitude today. What is important is to be humble, to listen to what you don’t know and be curious about what you want to know and what you want to discover. That’s what I did as a young chef, I put my head down and I was able to focus myself on what others could teach me. I was not even a chef, I was someone who got into cooking out of the blue. Humility is very important.
What was your biggest success as a young chef?
To be able to take my ego out and surround myself with people who were able to help me evolve as a person. Not feeling that I know what I’m doing, It was very rich and successful for me because I was able to learn and be inspired from others. That’s how you become a better cook.
Tell us about your new project in San Francisco: Boutique Crenn
What I wanted to do is create a space where there is an intersection of food, art and fashion. It’s not a restaurant, it’s a place where people can simply come, grab and go. It’s also celebrating French gastronomy through patisserie, boulangerie scene, then bringing art to it all, creating this dialogue. It’s a place with these few concepts that come together because they do interact with each other.
Walking into a space where you don’t have a singular concept, you have places and concepts that are all awaking your senses and also your brain - that’s what I want to do. I think fashion is a very important part of my life, art as well, I see the world through those lenses. Food is another part of my art and way of seeing things. Art and fashion are very political for me. Food is also political, eating food is an act of activism, fashion can be an act of activism and so can art. This project is about humanity, about sharing, about talking.
There has been a big shift recently to address the balance of gender equality in the kitchen - you have been one of the driving forces of this change: are you happy with how this movement is developing?
I see there is some movement that is happening but we stll have so much work to do, I’m sick and tired of not seeing more excitement about it or not seeing companies do what they’re supposed to do. I’m the change, we are the change, we are the people who are going to change the way and as we start to speak out things are going to move a lot faster. I think some companies use the platform to try and put themselves forward but I think one company has done a great thing and I’ve got to tell you, I think S.Pellegrino, and I’m not saying this because I’m doing the Young Chef, they have have stepped up to the plate and I admire that. There’s still a lot of work to be done but I have to commend the people I call out, they were like, ‘hey, you’re right’, and we need companies like them to step up.
Can you update us on your memoir
It’s been in the works for probably a year and it’s about me as a human speaking about myself and my 'crennology' of how I see the world. It will touch a lot of political issues, a lot of things about change, a lot of things about discussion. I’m a chef but I’m also a human and I want people to start asking me questions about things other than food.
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