Illustration by Inés Antuñano.
Illustration by Inés Antuñano.
“I don’t offer a menu, I offer a story. I offer my soul. I offer a conversation and I want people to want to talk to me. I’m looking for a conversation. I want to provoke something in the customers. And if I achieve this, I know I’ve done the right thing.”Dominique Crenn.
Since she decided to move to San Francisco to work in a restaurant -without having any academic studies related to cooking-, Dominique Crenn took control and pushed the limits of the restaurant industry. She says: “It’s not about aptitude but rather your attitude to define your altitude.
Crenn has been recognized by the Government of France for its contributions to the country’s gastronomy and culture. In addition to being the first woman to receive three Michelin stars in the United States (for her restaurant Atelier Crenn), she has created bonds and emotions that aim to connect the world through her cuisine.
Petit Crenn is another award-winning restaurant whose dishes show the living connection Dominique maintains with her home in Brittany, France. Bar Crenn also earned its Michelin star and Boutique Crenn, a mix of boutique, restaurant and patisserie, is in the planning and take-off stage. Yes, Dominique Crenn is a machine, but her success has been a constant search, not one of perfection but of evolution.
For Dominique Crenn, owning a restaurant is not sexy: it is necessary to integrate the community because many people depend on the business; not only those who work in the restaurant but all those who are part of the production chain are fundamental and have the same level of importance. That’s how complicated it is. Responsibility and attention go beyond making sure that the restaurant’s tables are booked.
Opening a restaurant won’t be easy. Here are some tips from Dominique Crenn to make it happen:
What I would recommend to anyone looking to open a restaurant is to recognize the complexities involved. The idea has become very Hollywood and it’s not like that. To open a restaurant you need to have a purpose and you need to recognize your vision. Don’t do it for the simple reason of “wanting a restaurant”. Know the effort required and do it for the right reasons. If you are not going to invest time in teaching the people who are going to work with you, you are wasting it: without your team you are nothing.
To open a restaurant you have to know yourself as a whole, know what you are getting into: know yourself and each person that is part of your kitchen team, explore the demographics and the place where you plan to open.
Many times we were convinced that we were going to fail when we opened Atelier Crenn. You try to keep your own concept but the audience doesn’t understand it unless it’s black or white, without nuances. Hold your idea firmly. If you belittle your own concept and philosophy, your audience gets confused. We were consistent in the beginning, and of course we had very tough days.
On the other hand, every dish you serve in your restaurant must have a purpose. Every year we are challenged to make sure that the team understands the mindset we have and who we are as humans so that we can set limits to create things. You must have a connection with all of them. In our restaurant there is continuity and consistency in the menu. Our goal is always to convey emotions and what we really feel, this is our creative process.
I’ve been cooking since the 1990s – that’s a long time – and I’ve done it with my own vision. Obviously years ago this vision wasn’t what satisfied the Michelin guide, so I guess over time we did something that caught their attention. It took many years of hard work – eight in total – and it is the time used for evolving that should never be left undiscussed. It is necessary to observe and appreciate the effort made from the beginning, in addition to all the experiences that united and formed the right team. That’s how we got to this point.
The awards are just that: awards. What really defines you is what you do with that recognition. Every day you have to work and make sure your restaurant is full. You don’t wake up every day hoping to get Michelin stars. When I opened my first restaurant, I never doubted myself. You have to surrender completely until you know you’ve done it. I believe in failure and problems as sources of opportunity, but the most important thing is to believe in yourself.
*Our specialty is the Food & Beverage (F&B) industry.