The World’s Best Female Chef, Dominique Crenn, Talks Gender Imbalance in the Kitchen
Dominique Crenn, head chef and owner of the two-Michelin-starred Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, may be the “World’s Best Female Chef” (according to the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony in June), but around the holidays, she’s known for making an incredible, traditional French Christmas dinner. The Daily Meal spoke with Crenn, who is partnering with LG Signature to promote its refrigerators, about her experience as a successful chef in the still-male-dominated industry of fine dining, as well as some lighter topics like what she’s making for Christmas dinner and some tips on how to host the perfect holiday feast.
The Daily Meal: Why do you think there are not as many female chefs, like yourself, with Michelin stars? How can the industry change to help that?
Dominique Crenn: It’s hard but it’s starting to shift a little bit, there are a lot of chefs in my industry that are women [and] they are amazing, but the media doesn’t pay attention to them. You pick up a magazine and the new best chef is usually a man.
But when I go to a conference, it’s unbelievable how many female chefs there are. Then I went to a conference in Paris and out of 65 chefs, only two were female. I looked at the organizer and said, “You did this!”
There is also still a difference in pay that needs to be addressed. It’s industry-wide. We need to have these conversations. There is work that needs to be done.
What advice do you have for young women who want to become world-class chefs someday?
They must have a lot of determination and desire and really focus on what they want. Dedication is important as well. It’s not about being a woman or a man; it’s about being who you want to be. Young women need to have the confidence to know who they are.
As Christmas is coming, what are you making for the holidays?
It’s going to be in line with a traditional French dinner: a lot of oysters, lot of beautiful vegetables, plenty of fish. I was thinking of cooking a turbot fish — it looks like flounder and is a delicious white fish. I cook it in a salt crust in the oven. We make a Dijon Beurre blanc with it and squeeze lemon over it, it’s fabulous. For dessert, the Bûche de Noël [a traditional Christmas log cake] and, of course, plenty of wine.
What is your number one tip for people hosting their first holiday dinner?
I think the number one thing is don’t stress out! Make a list before all things you need to do; don’t do everything the same day. Set the table the night before. You set the table and the day of cooking you’re ready to go.
What is a mistake a lot of people make when making holiday dinners?
I think they try to make too much food. I would think that most of the people don’t have commercial kitchens, so space is important. Maybe make six or seven items, or pre-order some items so you don’t take up space in the oven. You can make the dinner a little bit more focused; I think that’s the trick. Mix it up with hot food and cold, be conscious that the oven is not as big as you think it is.
After Christmas is over, there will obviously be a ton of leftovers. How do your organize your fridge to fit everything along with any fresh, uncooked food?
Storing food properly is important in any fridge. With LG, you can really organize your food the way it needs to be. The key is to have vegetables on one side, and never mix meat and vegetable and dairy because of the raw meat drippings. You don’t want to contaminate your food. That’s very important! It’s good to have a fridge that makes that easy.