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Reimagining Atelier Crenn | Dominique Crenn

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Reimagining Atelier Crenn | Meet the First U.S. Female Chef to Earn Three Michelin Stars

Ethan Tobman and Dominique Crenn. Photo by John Troxell.

As Chef Dominique Crenn evolves, so too does her Michelin star San Francisco restaurant, Atelier Crenn.

Chef Dominique Crenn’s muse has always been her country of origin. The rugged coastline and blush-hued sand of her native Brittany Coast have long been artistically and poetically represented within the creative dishes served at her ICONIC San Francisco restaurant Atelier Crenn. But after nearly 25 years as a San Franciscan, the renowned Chef Crenn is changing focus to honor the place she now considers home.

It was in San Francisco that Crenn began her formal training as a chef. She moved from France in 1988 and began working under the tutelage of local luminaries Jeremiah Tower and Mark Franz for more than two years at the celebrated restaurant Stars. Crenn then went on to make history as the first female executive chef in Jakarta, Indonesia, where she headed the kitchen at the InterContinental Hotel. After having spent a decade away from San Francisco, she returned in 2008 to head the kitchen at Luce, in San Francisco’s Intercontinental Hotel, earning her first Michelin star in 2009 and again in 2010. 

Driven by a passion to create a deeply personal project, Crenn opened Atelier Crenn in January 2011. An ode to “poetic culinaria” where she could express her heritage, Atelier Crenn achieved its first Michelin Star within a year. The following year, Crenn made history again when Atelier Crenn received its second Michelin Star, becoming the first female chef in the US to receive this honor. In November 2018, she became the first female chef in the US to receive three Michelin Stars.

Photo by John Troxell

With artistry at the forefront, cuisine as craft and community always as inspiration, Atelier Crenn was, and continues to be, a reflection of Crenn’s life story. Memories of a happy childhood, one in which she was entranced by the intricacies and beauty of fine cuisine, define her artistic culinary style. The warm family life and strong sense of community that she enjoyed as a youth have defined her outlook and philosophy. And now, after 12 years of drawing inspiration from her childhood and individual journey, Crenn has reimagined her world-renowned Atelier Crenn restaurant to keep pace with her continuing personal evolution.

New as of February 2023 in concept and design, the Atelier Crenn experience continues to be deeply personal to Crenn. The new menu celebrates California’s rich bounty, highlighting local plants, fish and seafood. Yet the inspiration goes deeper than menu ingredients.

Guests now embark on a journey that guides them through different times and places, highlighting the beauty of California’s landscape both geographically and culturally. 

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California’s multitude of cultures, flavors and ideas is what drew me here,” Crenn says. “I am so proud to say that California is my home. Now I am working to tell the story of this beautiful place—the land, the sea and the people. There is so much beauty around us to be thankful for. This menu is an ode to the place that I consider home.”

Atelier Crenn Dining Room by Jason Bowman

Crenn collaborated with Hollywood set designer Ethan Tobman on Atelier Crenn’s dining room remodel. The two became fast friends while working together on the set of Searchlight Pictures’ The Menu; Tobman, known for his production design in film, television and music, served as production designer on the movie and Crenn served as chief technical consultant. 

“This collaboration was written in the stars,” Tobman says, who has worked on music videos with celebrities such as Taylor Swift and Beyonce. “To be able to bring Chef Crenn’s beautiful vision to life is such an honor. She is an inspiration to me and so many others.”

Atelier Crenn Dining Room by Jason Bowman

“Ethan and I were quickly connected to each other,” Crenn says. “Maybe it’s our creative minds that were drawn together, but he was really amazing to work with. From the moment we met, I knew I had to work with him again in another capacity.”

Tobman was inspired by Crenn’s complex personality—a mix of inspiring precision and accessible joie de vivre. His design is an extension of the brand she has created and is a more personal reflection of the life and community she has built in California. Elements include her love of nature and Japanese culture, subtle references to her childhood in France, and potential origins in Morocco. 

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Chestnut Miso Kingyoyaki, Atelier Crenn, by John Troxell

Specifics include a 25-foot paper chandelier that evokes waves, a mural of trees, a mirrored column of Beaux-Arts design, a Kyoto rock wall in the restroom and geometric patterns that relate to the precision of the food. Clean and exacting, yet playful and immersive, the design does not distract from the food, which continues to be the star of the show. Tobman and Crenn’s goal is that guests feel transported and that the experience is fun, inviting, intentional and unique. 

“The design is organic modernism, giving the feeling of nature’s elements through industrial materials,” Tobman explained. “It is at once free and calming while precise and exploratory. You’ll always feel that it’s at its center while never feeling that there isn’t more to explore.” 

Sourdough and Dutch Crunch Bread, Atelier Crenn, by John Troxell

“I want guests to see the beauty that is California and I want to help tell the stories that are often untold,” Crenn says. “We are bringing that to life at Atelier.”

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