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“The French version of “Top Chef” is of a much higher quality than the American”

INTERVIEW – The three-starred French chef in San Francisco has agreed to participate in the M6 ​​gastronomic competition. She challenges the candidates on seafood.

At 56, Dominique Crenn is one of the most recognized female chefs in the world. She is the first to have obtained three stars in the United States with her restaurant Atelier Crenn located in San Francisco. However, the French cook has an atypical career. Self-taught, she flew to the United States after completing a business school. On the spot, she managed to get hired, with nerve, at a very big name in the kitchen. She trained there before leaving for Indonesia and becoming the first female chef in the country. She returned to the United States where she opened a restaurant which earned her the recognition of the entire profession. Very well known across the Atlantic – she is married to actress Maria Bello (“Emergencies”) -, the one who considers herself more of an artist than a cook, agreed to return to “Top Chef” (she had already participated in the competition cuisine of M6 in 2015). She recounts this experience and tells us about her philosophy in the kitchen and in life.

TV MAGAZINE. – Why did you agree to cross the world to participate in “Top Chef”?
Dominique CRENN. –
I came in 2015 and I meet my friends there. But above all, the French version of “Top Chef” is of a much higher quality than the American one. I find it interesting and important for young cooks to see something different from what French chefs offer in France. It opens up other horizons, a different vision and creativity. By coming on the show, I may have helped the candidates to change their point of view and their way of doing things. French cuisine is great but it’s a unique path, you have to get out of what you do every day. A cook should always be curious. It is by discovering tastes that they do not know that great chefs advance and progress. In the kitchen, there is technique but there is no law, it is art, emotion.

” READ ALSO – “Top Chef”, a success that goes beyond our borders, on M6

You asked the candidates to work with seafood, why this choice?
My mother is from Brittany and, for me, the sea represents mystery, beauty, it’s everything. It’s not an easy subject because I didn’t expect candidates to just cook a fish or a shellfish, but also to understand the ecosystem and the history of this product. Me, when there is a fish or a shellfish on a plate, I want to taste it and taste its history. And then, it’s not easy to cook seafood because if you cook them too much, if you don’t season them or don’t give them the right taste, it can be difficult.

What did you think of the candidates?
They have a great level but I found that there was a little too much classicism in their plates. I needed to be surprised because I like to surprise people. There is one participant who surprised me and whose dish made me think. It was a taste bomb. When a cook surprises you, it’s super exciting.

You return to “Top Chef” seven years after the first time, have you noticed an evolution?
The main development is that the production now invites chefs who come from abroad and this brings something different to the show.

Do you know the four jurors?
Hélène Darroze is a friend and I know Glenn Viel and Paul Pairet very well, a little less Philippe Etchebest. It was great to see them and the atmosphere is very nice.

“Learning to cook is putting yourself in an emotion, in a story, watching and being interested in nature and the ecosystem”

Dominique Crenn

What did you want to pass on to these young cooks?
I want to tell them that cooking is not about technique. That can be acquired every day, but learning to cook means putting yourself in an emotion, in a story, looking at and taking an interest in nature and the ecosystem. I come back from the Colombian Amazon rainforest where I worked with the native Indians who have had their own cuisine, their fermentations for thousands of years. Cooking is people looking at nature and nature giving people ideas for cooking. I think chefs need that. I want the candidates to see a product as a color and the plate as a whiteboard and to succeed in creating a harmonious painting. Generally speaking, I think cooks need to become a bit more sensitive. Sometimes I feel like they act like robots.

Nature seems very important to you. What is your approach with the products?
I have a farm where we grow a lot of things. I also work with plants native to California. I meet farmers who have different products but also people who go to the forest or who fish. I have lots of information. If I cook you an abalone, it will be an explosion of taste, but it will mostly be abalone on the plate. As we say in the United States “less is more”. We have to stop putting too many things in one dish. In the kitchen, we do not cover but we uncover.

” READ ALSO – “Top Chef”: who are the eleven chefs from abroad who take part in the competition?

Only one woman remains in the contest. You paved the way by becoming the first chef to earn two and then three stars in the United States. What message do you want to convey to young girls who are hesitant to get into this profession?
They are not the problem but the leaders. Even if we speak of an evolution, the discourse of the latter hardly changes, it is always: “I don’t know if I’m going to hire women because they want to make a family”… I find it horrible! Leaders must change in their heads. If women want to work, they can come to my house, I welcome them (laughs). In Jakarta, I had a 100% female brigade, in my restaurant Petit Crenn I had 80% women and at Atelier Crenn, it’s parity. I don’t make the difference. If young people look at what is happening in the world in terms of women’s rights, they will of course be afraid to get started, but I think we have to continue to be strong. Me, if I do what I do, it’s not for the rewards but for my two daughters. The important thing for me is not to win stars but to help women and change things.

“I have the project to open a restaurant in Paris. I want to do something different by offering cuisine that represents my California”

Dominique Crenn

You are self-taught, how did your love for cooking come about?
I grew up in a family that loves cooking. My dad worked in politics but his best friend was a food critic at Telegram from Brest. So we went to good restaurants. I was immersed in the beauty of French gastronomy. .I wanted to become a photographer but I had not passed the appropriate baccalaureate to enter the Louis Lumière school… So I went to San Francisco in the United States and I wanted to work in the kitchen but not really. in a classic brigade. I did some research and found chef Jeremiah Towers who had been an architect and was self-taught. So he had a different approach. That’s how I started.

You have three restaurants in the United States, do you want to open an establishment in France?
I actually plan to open a restaurant in Paris. I’m not interested in doing three stars. I want to bring something different by offering a cuisine that represents my California a bit. I don’t have an opening date yet, France is complicated… I was next to Emmanuel Macron during the chefs’ dinner in Lyon and I told him that France was too bureaucratic and that she needed to wake up. It’s one of the most beautiful countries in the world and in terms of gastronomy, fashion and art it’s great, but the country doesn’t know how to make room for young people. Otherwise, I also launched the “Break bread” initiative to raise funds for the benefit of Ukrainians. Today, Wednesday May 11, I will be with chefs from around the world live on Facebook and YouTube at 6 p.m.

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SEE ALSO – Behind the scenes of TV: in the studios of Top Chef with Stéphane Rotenberg


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