'I'm Always Writing the Menu as a Poem': An Interview with Dominique Crenn

Dominique Crenn was born in France but has been working in American restaurants for nigh on two decades. As I was finishing up this week's review of Atelier Crenn, I talked to Crenn about her experience opening a restaurant in Indonesia, the farm she works with, and the meaning of the restaurant's tagline.

SFoodie: How did you come to be the chef of Luce?

Crenn: I came to the U.S. in the 1990s. I worked all around, including at Stars, and in 1996, I became the chef of Yoyo Bistro, which used to be Elka. During my one-year tenure there, I met a lot of French chefs at the time. They introduced me to the Intercontinental, which invited me to open a restaurant in the Jakarta property. The thing was, since Indonesia is a Muslim country, they wanted me, as a woman chef, to build an all-woman brigade in the kitchen. It was a challenge! I struggled to build a team with just women, but that was one of the best experiences. I was there for a year, until the the 1998 civil war.

Then I went to Los Angeles, but I kept in touch with a few people at the Intercontinental. In the summer of 2007, the hotel came to L.A. and asked me if I was interested in opening their restaurant in S.F. Of course, San Francisco is not my home town, but I'm attached to it. I feel very lucky to be here.

I always wanted to open a small place. I almost leased a property in Jack London Square, but 11 months ago, PlumpJack became available. It felt like it was the right space.

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