Dominique Crenn believes our connection to humanity comes our inherent ability to be creative. After opening her eponymous restaurants, Atelier Crenn, Petit Crenn, and most recently, Bar Crenn, the chef’s latest venture is teaming up with founder, chairman & co-CEO of Salesforce, Marc Benioff, on a multi-faceted food experience at Salesforce Tower, in San Francisco.
As her Chef’s Table feature captures, Crenn was born in Versaille and was adopted by her parents at the age of 18 months. Growing up primarily in France, she earned a degree in Economics from Le Cours Charlemagne and International Business School, l’Academie Commerciale Internationale, in Paris. Crenn recalls being raised by parents who “taught me the value of life, the value of humanity, the value of art, the value of connection, the value of dialogue, and the value of being a human on this Earth. I feel that’s what I’m doing here today. That’s opened up the road to where I’m going now.”
“Food is language. It helped me to open up the conversation on other things,” said Crenn. “It’s also an art, so it gives me a platform to make my voice a little bit louder.” Crenn doesn’t consider herself “just a regular chef,” though. “I’m not even a just a kitchen cook—everything we do has a purpose, and there’s meaning to it. There’s a start, there’s a middle, and ultimately there is a connection to people that I want to come in here, and they kind of understand,“ she said.
Crenn believes coming together over food has the possibility of making profound change in the world, and it’s not just about those who gather at the table—it’s about how you bring together the ingredients, where they are from, who grew them and what statements you make.“You have so much responsibility because when you’re in the kitchen, it’s not just food, it’s where the food comes from, what you did with production, what you did it with human interaction, and how you did it with different cultures. Food becomes a mark of activism,” she said.
In a time when the Bay Area is ripe for cultural revolution, Crenn is bringing forth her new project, Boutique Crenn, slated to open in the fall of 2019 at Salesforce Tower. In collaboration with artist, architect and designer, Dror Benshetrit, Crenn is creating a place for story, the interaction between the culinary world and the world around us, and a place to bring cultural awareness through food. “Food, for me, is society, and food is very political,” said Crenn. “Food is part of culture, and culture relies on art and creativity. If there is no art, there is no food, and there is no city.”
Through this work, Crenn is looking forward to the collaboration with visitors, employees of Salesforce, and artists in the community. “I want to speak to the artist community, and I want to have artists with purpose. They are aware of doing things in the world and are engaged with people and ideas. Artists come with a sense of matter and humanity, and I’m more interested in that,” said Crenn. This new project aims to be a confluence of Crenn’s interests, passions and desires for a world that is more kind, collaborative and aware. Using food as a point of connection, Crenn is bringing people to an experience that doesn’t just revolve around the edible objects themselves but around creating a curious community of like-minded people. “We have to understand that that we are but energy,” she said. “I feel connected to people and they shape me as a human being because I try to understand and feel their vibe and vibration. That’s what shapes my life and my work—not cooking. Art shapes my work, too, because art is created by humans through the energy that they feel from within and without their surroundings. The deeper our environment is, the more interesting is our experience. This process is very rich for me.”
Humble, warm and extraordinarily focused, Crenn has always been one to bring people up with her. From her long-standing career, she shares some of her insights for entrepreneurs:
Know yourself and be curious. Never say that you are sorry to anyone. You have to have a vision, you have to know where you’re going and you need to surround yourself with the proper tools that will make you feel and know that they’re going to help you be successful.
Have a vision. Be clear about where you want to go and design a way to get there. If you really believe in it, and it’s an amazing idea, and it will come to fruition. Remember, not everybody liked Steve Jobs, but he always had a vision, even if no one believed in him for a long time.
Be confident and have humility: My dad taught me that. He said when I was very young, “This world is not going to be easy at times, but remember that no one is better than you. But you’re not better than them—you’re just the best version of yourself, so be confident.” Confidence doesn’t mean that you have to be an asshole; it means that you stand up for yourself when you’re in an argument. Always know exactly where you want to go. But have a lot of humility and listen to others because their voices bring you new ideas and perspectives, especially in the kitchen. There, I listen to everyone. I may not always agree on everything, but I need to have space where I can be inspired by others, and we all need to inspire others, too.