Blending her French heritage and a modern approach, Dominique Crenn is more than a master of French cuisine. Her vision at the three Michelin star Atelier Crenn goes beyond the impeccable food on the table. That dining experience is an invitation to explore the artistry woven into the food. Ahead of her appearance on MasterChef Legends, the celebrated chef discussed what French food means to her, her culinary influences and a French dish that she encourages everyone to master.
When people in the culinary world talk about Crenn, there are many accolades that come to mind. From the Michelin Stars to the James Beard Awards, the list is long. But, those awards are just a small glimpse into the multifaceted world of the celebrated chef.
Much has been said about her approach to cuisine, her passion to forge her own path and her determination to speak her truth. While she might have coined her recent book the “Rebel Chef,” her storytelling through food is more than a comment against the establishment. Crenn has and will continue to push the food conversation forward and fortunately many people are wanting to listen.
Since this season of MasterChef has focused on culinary legends, it is fitting that Crenn is the ambassador for French cuisine. Although the “wall” challenge in her episode is unique, it seems fitting for the chef who is never afraid to do things differently.
Dominique Crenn discusses French culture, cuisine and cooking.
For some people in the food world, Paris and French cuisine holds a bounty of food pleasures. But, it is more than just the classic dishes prepared with impeccable details.
Crenn said, “The French have a different approach to food. It’s about appreciating our ingredients and their source. Mealtimes are not rushed, they are savored and seen as opportunities to connect with family and friends. These are the values of our culture, and it speaks through our food.”
That concept of savoring the time around the table is vital. In some ways, it is an art form that is lost as people have their faces in a screen or rushing to finish the next task. When people can open their eyes and minds to the food in front of them, the distractions can, and should, fade away.
Still, many home cooks can feel intimidated by the techniques and approaches in French cuisine. For Crenn, the advice seems to mimic many other chefs. In many ways, cooking is like a journey. Never a straight line, not always perfect, but a memory to be made.
While a recipe can be helpful, Crenn offers this advice. “Recipes don’t need to be followed precisely, they are merely a guideline. Use your own judgment and flavor preferences; try new things, make mistakes and learn from them. Cooking should be fun and come from the heart.”
Although she has a repertoire of dishes, Crenn’s favorite dishes seem to bring back memories, balance techniques and offer a warm welcome to the food experience. Specifically, she recalls this dish.
Crenn shares, “One of my favorite French desserts is a Tarte Tatin, it reminds me of being home in Brittany. The upside-down tart bakes apples in a simple caramel and covers them with a classic pastry dough. Fundamental techniques are used in this recipe but it’s so simple and delicious!”
In some ways, that Tarte Tatin is an example of how Crenn weaves all her influences into her food. Whether it is looking back to her family or looking ahead on how interrelated the world can be, it seems that her influences are everywhere.
Given that this MasterChef season celebrates culinary legends, Crenn looks within her family for inspiration. She said, “My mother and my grandmother influenced me. They cooked with love and with fresh and local ingredients. They had little waste by using a whole animal/whole vegetable approach to cooking.”
At the same time, she appreciates other chefs who are willing to push the conversation forward. Creen said, “I really admire contemporary chefs today who are just unafraid to be themselves. Those who are thinking beyond the walls of their restaurants and are conscious of their impact on the community and planet will succeed.”
While the home cooks on MasterChef Legends take the first step in their culinary path, the words of Dominique Crenn should be etched into their memory. The impact that food can have is not limited to the table or the plate. That lasting impression that lingers in the mind, heart and soul should be the goal. From the home cook to the MasterChef, an impact can be made as long as people are open to the experience.
Which culinary legend has influenced you to push your food boundaries? Has this MasterChef season encouraged you to take a culinary journey?