Our interview with Dominique Crenn... Famous chef and fervent mushroom lover.

Chef Dominique Crenn - the first female chef in the United States to be awarded three Michelin stars for her restaurant Atelier Crenn.

At Incredible Mushrooms, we’re really excited to have had the opportunity to talk with Dominique Crenn about cooking with mushrooms.

Chef Dominique Crenn is the first female chef in the United States to be awarded three Michelin stars for her restaurant Atelier Crenn in San Francisco. 

She is also a fervent mushroom lover. One of her signature dishes is called "A walk in the forest". It is a poem dedicated to her morning walks in the forests of Britain, where mushrooms are the protagonists.

In her recent book Rebel Chef: In Search of What Matters, she says she uses a variety of wild mushrooms to recreate elements of the forest in her dish. She plays with sautéed, pureed, pickled, and dried mushrooms to compose the darkness of the forest. The base of the pureed and pickled mushrooms has a delicious mushroom broth that reminds her of the forest light.

Let’s get started with the interview…

To keep things simple...we'll abbreviate with IM for Incredible Mushrooms and DC for Dominique Crenn.

IM: When I told you we were going to talk about mushrooms, the first thing you told me was I love mushrooms! Why do you like mushrooms so much?

DC: Mushroom is a taste of the earth. They are one of the most incredible gifts from Mother Earth and a sign of rebirth and new beginnings.

IM: How does your story begin with mushrooms in your cooking?

DC: It started with the story of going to the forest with my dad and brother when I was a young girl. I was so amazed by my surroundings and the way that mushrooms grow from the earth. They have always captivated me.

IM: Do you have any special memories from that time? 

DC: I remember that one day... I went to the forest to forage mushrooms- I picked and ate one that was slightly poisonous. It was a strange day for me indeed but could have been so much worse. I learned my lesson, that foraging for mushrooms requires a lot of education and care.

Mushrooms can be beautiful and delicious, but are also mysterious and sometimes deadly.

IM: Do these memories inspire you to create such amazing dishes as "A Walk in the Forest", where mushrooms take centre stage?

A Walk in the Forest... a unique dish where mushrooms take center stageA Walk in the Forest... a unique dish where mushrooms take center stage.

DC: Yes, and a number of years ago I created this dish. It was a re-creation of a memory of my brother and father and our walks in the forest. It includes the flavors, scents, and textures that you will find in the forest including mushrooms.

The ingredients include Maitake mushrooms, crispy mushroom paper, herb soil, pine meringue, and sorrel. Flavor combinations and ingredients are based on seasonality

IM: What are your favorite mushrooms and why? 

DC: I have so many favorite mushrooms, I love them all! But the ones I prepare the most are Shiitake, Morels, and Lion's Mane.

Shiitake Mushrooms

Shiitake mushrooms, ready to be sliced.

I love to grill everything. So I usually put my Shiitake on the wood fire grill or oven with only a little bit of olive oil and salt. The smokiness paired with the mushroom is so delicious.

Morel Mushrooms

Morel mushrooms, fresh from the woods.

Morels are also very special and I love when they come out in the spring. I sauté them with other spring vegetables, like asparagus and radish, and add to pasta.

Lion's Mane Mushrooms

Lion's Mane mushroom, ready to be grilled or fried.

Lion's Mane is one mushroom you don't see as often but it's amazing. It is delicate yet so full of flavor and lends itself perfectly to grilling or frying after dipped in tempura batter.

IM: Tell us about this beautiful place "Bleu Belle Farm" where you grow your own mushrooms in a hut for your restaurants. Describe the place a little, what varieties you have, how it works in your restaurants.

DC: Bleu Belle Farm is something that we created a few years ago in Sonoma, about 50 miles from San Francisco. 

It is a very special place to me, and I named it after my two daughters. The thought was to build a place that provides produce for my restaurants, and also gives back to the earth using biodynamic and organic farming practices. We grow all produce that we use at Atelier Crenn, from leeks to broccoli to tomatoes and berries. 

Our chef and farmer teams work closely together to plan the growing seasons and menus, so they compliment each other. It is not an easy task to manage and use your own farm, but it is better for so many reasons - the produce is delicious, the earth and native species are benefitting, and we are living our values of sustainability.

Milk cap mushrooms.

As for the mushrooms, the Milk Cap is one of the most beautiful ones we grow at "Bleu Belle" Farm. This one goes straight onto this week's "Repas de Famille" menu at Atelier Crenn. Bon appétit!

IM: Thank you so much for taking the time to tell us about your work and your love of mushrooms.

DC: You’re very welcome!


This interview was edited for length and clarity.

The Atelier Crenn restaurant website 

Photo credits:

Photo of Dominique Crenn: Amanda Demme

Metamorphosis of Taste dish: Ed Anderson

All other images: Jordan Wise

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