50 Best awarded French chef Dominique Crenn with the Icon Award 2021. This award celebrates an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to the restaurant industry worthy of international recognition and who has used their platform to raise awareness and drive positive change. In addition to being named The World’s Best Female Chef in 2016, Crenn has made history throughout the course of her career while blazing a trail for future chefs to follow.
The French-born, San Francisco-based chef developed a keen interest in cuisine from her parents before she moved to the US aged 24 and began her formal training. Crenn then became the first female executive chef in Jakarta, Indonesia, where she headed the kitchen at the Intercontinental Hotel. After returning to San Francisco to work at the acclaimed Luce, she opened Atelier Crenn in the city in 2011. The restaurant was rewarded with its first Michelin star within months; the following year Crenn became the first female chef in the US to oversee a restaurant awarded two stars. She then beat her own record once more in 2018 when Atelier Crenn graduated to three-star status. In 2019, Atelier Crenn ranked No.35 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
William Drew, Director of Content for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants says: “Dominique Crenn is not just an outstanding chef and restaurateur, she is an example of someone who speaks truth to power in every aspect of her life – through her leadership, humanity and endless campaigning for social justice within as well as outside of the hospitality sphere. Her devotion to sustainability, her community and her restaurant teams, while achieving and delivering culinary excellence time and time again, makes her a hugely worthy recipient of this year’s Icon Award.”
Crenn says: “It is an incredible honour to be selected as the recipient of the 50 Best Icon Award this year. For my work to be recognised by my peers fills me with such pride and appreciation. I hope to use this platform as an opportunity to give back and to inspire the next generation to be true to themselves and to always enjoy the journey."
Atelier Crenn is centred around the theme of ‘poetic culinaria’, Crenn’s belief in storytelling through her dishes, each of which has its own narrative. Crenn opened her second restaurant, Petit Crenn, in San Francisco in 2015, embracing her culinary upbringing in a more casual setting. The upscale bistro is an ode to the home cooking of Brittany and the dinner parties thrown by Crenn’s mother and grandmother. Bar Crenn, a wine bar situated next door to Atelier Crenn, was opened in 2018 as an homage to the Parisian salons of the early 20th century.
A short distance outside of San Francisco, in Sonoma, Chef Crenn grows produce at her Bleu Belle Farm, an important project that supports her mission to achieve waste-free status across her restaurant group, as compost from each location is returned to the farm. An outspoken and active member of the international culinary community, Chef Crenn promotes innovation, sustainability and equality through her collaborations with organisations such as the Basque Culinary Center and Pan American Development Foundation. She also participates in panels and summits, including speaking at the #50BestTalks thought-leadership forum in San Francisco in 2018. When the pandemic hit last spring, Petit Crenn was transformed from an intimate high-end restaurant into a kitchen providing meals for frontline workers and has also been feeding the homeless of San Francisco with 2,000 healthy, organic, plant-based meals a week.
Since being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019 (now in remission), Crenn has been an advocate of openly speaking about her health, in order to help raise awareness of the disease. As a self-identified half-European, half North-African individual, Crenn also campaigned passionately for Black Lives Matter in 2020 and beyond.
The Icon Award was introduced in 2019 with the inaugural winner, Spanish-born chef and restaurateur José Andrés, honoured for his work with World Central Kitchen, where he uses food to empower communities and strengthen economies, as well as promote the development of sustainable food systems.