Michelin-star chef Dominique Crenn is the talk of the town
Chef Dominique Crenn, the dynamo behind the Michelin two-star Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, bursts into the restaurant’s tiny kitchen. Instead of creating ethereal dishes for the Atelier’s tasting menu, her team is testing recipes for Bar Crenn, the chef’s new wine bar next door, and up next is les pommes moulées. It is, essentially, a tall potato cake—golden tuber slices are layered with clarified butter and rich, tangy cheese—a dish with the rustic elegance and complexity of classic French cuisine. “You have to use the right potato,” she says, eyeing it as it cools. “In France, they use one called the Charlotte but you cannot get that here. Now, we’re trying Yukons.”
Getting it right is important. Bar Crenn’s menu is a celebration of French gastronomy and Crenn personally requested the recipes from the greats: Paul Bocuse. Alain Ducasse. Yannick Alléno. Guy Savoy. Les pommes moulées came from Guillaume Gomez, chef to the French President Emmanuel Macron (for whom Crenn cooked last year). The bar itself is an elegant homage to the past, modeled on a 1920s lounge and filled with antiques and crystal chandeliers, books and art, with almost no wine bottles in sight. They are below, in the cellar: a brilliant list of 200 selections by producers that, as Crenn puts it, “have something to say:” from Littorai’s Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir to Domaine Leflaive’s Pucelles Premier Cru Puligny-Montrachet White Burgundy.
The bar is ambitious—three years in the making, Crenn says—but it turns out to be just “the appetizer” for what lies ahead this year. A few months ago, she bought a farm in Sonoma, where she grows the produce for her burgeoning empire of San Francisco restaurants. Root Project, a coffee initiative in Haiti dedicated to replanting coffee trees on the island, is producing beans that she uses in the restaurants. She will expand it into a distinct operation next year, part of what will be her biggest project yet. Called Boutique Crenn, the 5,000-square-foot space will open on the ground floor of the Salesforce Tower, the tallest building in the city, and combine food, art and fashion, all with a focus on sustainability. And, as if that weren’t enough, Crenn also has a memoir due out later this year from Penguin Random House. In it, she will talk about things she has said little about publicly—namely the #MeToo movement, which she has preferred to address with projects like her Women in Food dinner series at Petit Crenn, featuring Niki Nakayama, Nancy Silverton, Barbara Lynch and many others. “It sold out in two minutes,” she says proudly. But for the moment, there are classic recipes to perfect: Île flottante. Tarte flambée. Bocuse’s legendary soupe aux truffes. The pommes moulées is ready to taste, and everyone eagerly takes a bite. It is luscious and melting with aged Comté and Meule du Jura cheeses. The potatoes have just the right give, the burnished crust adds just a little crunch. “Oh—we will serve it with caviar,” Crenn says, referring to the smoked trout caviar she cures herself. “Yes, that will be good, don’t you think?” 3131 Filmore St., S.F. 415-440-0460; barcrenn.com.
Written by MICHALENE BUSICO.
Photography by JORDAN WISE.