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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
DC: You’re very welcome!
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
The Atelier Crenn restaurant website
Photo of Dominique Crenn: Amanda Demme
Metamorphosis of Taste dish: Ed Anderson
All other images: Jordan Wise
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