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The Versailles-born and San Francisco–based chef Dominique Crenn has gained acclaim for her resilience and artistry in the kitchen. Growing up in Brittany, she developed an interest in cuisine and the transformative nature of cooking, which propelled her into kitchens in France, the U.S., and Indonesia. In 2011, Crenn opened Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, followed by Petit Crenn in 2015, and Bar Crenn in 2018. Atelier Crenn was also awarded three Michelin Stars in 2018, making her the first woman to receive two and three Michelin Stars in the U.S.
As a fixture on the food scene today, Crenn expresses her heritage and unique personal experiences through French gastronomy with imaginative, indulgent, and artistic elements. Delectable dishes that serve as odes to her upbringing, her interests, and her travels take guests on a journey through time and place. That’s why in 2021, Satopia Travel connected with Crenn for a collaboration that will bring guests on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to connect with food and nature, immersed in Massignac, France. From May 24–28, 2023 Crenn and Satopia Travel will offer a select group of guests in the Cognac region a fully immersive five-day experience. Starting at the five-star countryside hotel Domaine des Etangs, attendees will partake in unforgettable group meals, daily excursions, and themed evening soirées— from cooking demonstrations hosted by Crenn to the Secret Forest Supper and the Versailles Masked Ball.
In celebration of this curated experience, Whitewall heard from Crenn about how travel and memory are the most important aspects of her practice.
WHITEWALL: How did your collaboration with Satopia Travel begin?
DOMINIQUE CRENN: They reached out to me because they have been curating these amazing experiences all over the world. It just felt like the perfect fit for both of us!
WW: What kind of experience did you want to create?
DC: We wanted to create an experience that really speaks to everything that I love—France, food, and art. Domaine des Etangs is such a beautiful place that encompasses all of these ideas. To have an intimate experience with people while sharing our ideas on food and life and art, it will just be amazing.
WW: What do you feel is special about the Cognac region that you aim to express in your dishes?
DC: There is such rich beauty and history in this part of the world, and Domaine des Etangs will allow us to experience it in the best way. I will let the region and the place speak to me while I am there, and my dishes will reflect that. I imagine they will include a lot of love and a little bit of Cognac!
WW: The five-day excursion will feature dining experiences designed around daily themes—like French Gardens, Secret Forest Supper, Golden Soirée, and a Versailles Masked Ball. What about these themes guide your dishes?
DC: Each of these themes is about creativity, and there is also a bit of mystery. I feel like each experience speaks to a different part of my life. I spent time in the garden with my mother and grandmother, took long walks in the forest with my father and brother, and I was born in Versailles. Each is so special to me, and that will definitely be reflected in my dishes.
WW: What relationship do you see between food and travel? How can a food experience impact our memory of a place, our understanding of a place?
DC: Travel is so important. To learn about another group of people and their culture really opens your eyes to the beautiful ways of the work. All of the food that I create is a reflection of my experiences, and oftentimes that has to do with travel. To share new food and flavors with new people is one of the most important things in life.
WW: You took an unconventional approach to becoming a chef, training-wise. How does that impact your practice, and something like your collaboration with Satopia Travel today?
DC: I think everything that I do is unconventional. I just let my creativity and my heart guide me. This collaboration with Satopia really allows me to be myself and share that with the guests, and that is very important to me.
WW: When you’re back home in San Francisco, what kind of experience do you aim to create at your own restaurant, Atelier Crenn?
DC: I want my guests to feel like they are coming to my home when they visit Atelier Crenn. My food is an expression of myself, and I hope it speaks to people. Our service and our style is fun and approachable, just like me. Dinner here isn’t just a meal; it’s an experience.
WW: How does the environment of San Francisco impact your practice?
DC: San Francisco is such a beautiful place. I often only need to look at the fresh produce that comes from our own Bleu Belle Farm or from the small fish purveyors that deliver daily. All of the products that surround us bring me inspiration.