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

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

At 56 years old, Dominique Crenn is one of the most recognized female chefs in the world. She is the first to achieve three stars in the United States with her restaurant Atelier Crenn in San Francisco. However, the French cook has an atypical career. She was self-taught and flew to the United States after completing business school. On the spot, she was brave enough to be hired by a very big name in the kitchen. She trained there before moving to Indonesia and becoming the country’s first female chef. She returned to the United States where she opened a restaurant which earned her the recognition of the entire profession. Well known across the Atlantic – she is married to actress Maria Bello (“Emergencies”) – who considers herself more of an artist than a cook, agreed to return to “Top Chef” (she had already participated in the kitchen competition of M6 in 2015). She talks about this experience and talks 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 chefs to see something different than what French chefs offer in France. It opens up other horizons, a different vision and creativity. By getting on the show, I may have helped the candidates change their point of view and change their demeanor. French cuisine is great, but it is a unique path, you have to do your daily things. A cook should always be curious. It’s by discovering flavors they don’t know that great chefs progress and make progress. In the kitchen there is technology, but there is no law, it is art, emotion.

ALSO READ – “Top Chef”, a success 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 is everything. It’s not an easy topic because I didn’t expect candidates to cook just a fish or crustacean, but also understand the ecosystem and history of this product. Me, when there’s a fish or a crustacean on a plate, I want to taste it and taste its history. And then it’s not easy to cook seafood because if you overcook them, 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 felt there was a bit too much classicism in their plate. I had to be surprised, because I like to surprise people. There is one participant who surprised me and whose dish got me thinking. It was a flavor bomb. When a chef 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 from abroad and this brings something different to the show.

Do you know the four judges?
Hélène Darroze is a friend and I know Glenn Viel and Paul Pairet very well, Philippe Etchebest a little less. 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 chefs?
I want to tell them that cooking isn’t about technique. That can be acquired every day, but learning to cook means immersing yourself in an emotion, in a story, looking at and showing an interest in nature and the ecosystem. I come back from the Colombian Amazon rainforest where I have worked with the native Indians who have had their own cuisine for thousands of years, their fermentations. Cooking is people watching nature and nature gives 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 succeed in creating a harmonious painting. In general, I think chefs need to be a little 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 fish. I have a lot of information. If I cook you an abalone it will be an explosion of flavor but it will usually be abalone on the plate. As we say in the United States “less is more”. We need to stop putting too many things in one dish. In the kitchen we don’t cover, we discover.

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

Only one woman remains in the match. You paved the way by becoming the first chef to earn two and then three stars in the United States. What message would you like to convey to young girls who are hesitant to enter 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 start a family”… I find it terrible! Leaders need to change their minds. 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% female and at Atelier Crenn it is parity. I don’t make the difference. When young people look at what’s happening in the world in terms of women’s rights, they will of course be afraid to start, but I think we have to stay strong. Me, if I do what I do, it’s not for the rewards, it’s for my two daughters. The most 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 dishes that represent my California”

Dominique Crenn

You are self-taught, how did your love for cooking come about?
I grew up in a family that loves to cook. My father 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 be a photographer, but I didn’t get the right baccalaureate degree to go to 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 a branch in France?
I am actually planning 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 a little bit of my California. I don’t have an opening date yet, France is complicated… I sat next to Emmanuel Macron at the chefs’ dinner in Lyon and I told him that France was too bureaucratic and that she had to wake up. It is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and in terms of gastronomy, fashion and art it is great, but the country does not know how to make room for young people. Otherwise, I also launched the “Break bread” initiative to raise money for the benefit of Ukrainians. Today, Wednesday 11 May, I will be live with chefs from all over the world at 6 pm on Facebook and YouTube.

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