You’re not going to believe this, but I didn’t have a clue who to pick for this week’s challenge!
I honestly am not a person who gets super gaga over famous people and the hype that surrounds them. A good number of the people I look up to or admire are closer—as in, in my real life. Don’t get me wrong, I like plenty of celebs and watch them in their crafts, but I never really dive into researching them and looking into their lives that much.
All that aside, I am glad that this week’s challenge allowed me to do just that!
I came across Dominique Crenn! ♥
I was immediately fascinated. I was drawn to her, not just because of her beautiful dishes, but also her quiet confidence and her way of life in general.
In an interview I watched, she commented about what it’s like to be a woman in this industry and to run into what she calls “male energy.”
She says, “At the end of the day, you just have to earn their respect and they have to earn your respect. And it’s not bad to be a man or a woman; you just have to tell them what you want and be a leader, and I think they follow.”
Much of her culinary experience comes from her travels around the world.
She was not a classically trained chef, although she and her brother were exposed to art and literature from a very young age.
Her grandparents were farmers, and her father was a painter/artist with a shop called Atelier Papa Crenn. She paid homage to him by naming her San Francisco restaurant Atelier Crenn.
This legacy in honor of her father is evident in the presentation of Atelier Crenn. It has the feel of a home, where the menu seems to be poetry written by Crenn herself.
She believes that life, food, and nature are all poetic and she wants that to come across in the dishes she makes. She wants to tell a story with her dishes rather than just serve and describe their literal state.
Crenn sees herself and her (kitchen) team as artists. She says of her restaurant, “It’s an of expression of me and my team bringing love and life and passion together on the plate.”
She also believes in paying her staff a living wage. According to Chef Crenn, investing in the team, rather than taking higher profits, is how you grow and succeed.
With this in mind, she is able to give her staff consistent hours five days a week, health benefits, and paid time off.
If you, or anyone you know works in the food industry, you know benefits like these are like seeing a leprechaun riding a unicorn!
Crenn’s calm attitude and expressive nature is very charming and magnetizing.
In 2015, she did a speaking engagement for Food at Google on her first cookbook, titled Metamorphosis of Taste.
She explains that she opened a restaurant because food is a way she can express herself. It’s not about the money or simply about “chef ego.”
Having a platform for creation and fun, and the ability to dialogue with others (guests!) is her goal.
All of these wonderful facts about Crenn made me feel more comfortable with my place in the culinary world. Just listening to her speak about how much the passion behind what she does has far more to do with what creating (dishes) makes her feel and how it makes her a better person, gave me a sense of peace.
A career in food can be very technical, competitive, and stressful...
However, I went into this field because I love making and creating things not only I can enjoy, but that others can love, too.
I still get excited when I get feedback about something I made. It makes me feel so good to know that its intention and purpose were fulfilled, which in turn fulfills me!
Crenn encompasses all of the amazing philosophies that I admire in a person and now, in a female chef!
I know she isn’t a chef who necessarily paved the way many years ago, but I believe that she is continuing to pave the way—in her own way—today.
If you’ve never heard of Dominique Crenn, definitely check her out.
When you look at her food along with the descriptive poems she writes that inspires it, suddenly, it is received in a whole new way.
Some may just look without knowing and perceive it as pretentious, but I would say, look and listen (or read) and perhaps, you’ll see something different.
Here is a beautiful comfort dish she makes for her family that I feel anyone can love and be on board with: Warm Potato Salad.
Simple, but delicious.
This is the dish I wanted to recreate for you, because I think that Chef Crenn embodies warmth, wholeness/fullness and simple beauty.
Warm Potato Salad
- 1½ pounds baby potatoes, scrubbed (I used gold)
- ½ head of cauliflower, broken into florets (about 1 cup)
- 4 to 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons butter (I used vegan butter)
- 1 large onion, julienned
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons dijon or whole grain mustard
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon liquid smoke
- Splash of lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons minced chives
- Preheat a rimmed baking sheet in the oven at 450°F.
- In a large bowl, toss the potatoes, cauliflower, and 2 to 3 tablespoons of the oil. Lightly salt and pepper the mixture, stirring to coat the veggies with the oil.
- Carefully remove the hot baking sheet from the oven and immediately spread the potato and cauliflower mixture on it. Place the baking sheet back into the oven and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, turning the veggies halfway through.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the remaining oil and the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, stirring to coat it in the oil and butter. Then reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the onion to caramelize, only stirring a couple of times—about 25 to 30 minutes.
- Once the onion is done, transfer it to a blender or food processor along with the rice vinegar, mustard, liquid smoke, and lemon juice. Blend these ingredients to a sauce, taste to adjust any seasoning, then set aside.
- Once the potato and cauliflower mixture has finished cooking, remove it from oven and transfer it to a serving bowl. Top it with the sauce and stir to evenly coat. To serve, garnish the potato salad with the with chopped chives.