"It’s taken such a long time for people to understand that maybe it’s the right thing to do."
When Dominique Crenn, the two-Michelin-starred chef of San Francisco restaurants Atelier Crenn and Petit Crenn, announced her forthcoming Women of Food dinner series, tickets sold out almost immediately after becoming available on February 2. The six-night series, which begins in March and ends in November, features some of the top chefs cooking in the world right now, from Nancy Silverton (Mozza, Los Angeles) to Niki Nakayama (n/naka, Los Angeles) to Karen Keygnaert (Cantine Copine, Belgium).
Crenn, who started planning the program almost two years ago, has been pleased by the overwhelmingly positive reception, though is careful to note that there is nothing new about the idea of propping up women chefs, something she's been outspoken about for decades of her career.
"It's not just now; I’ve been vocal for many years about the need for inclusion in many things we do in my industry," she says. "It’s taken such a long time for people to understand that maybe it’s the right thing to do. [This series] has been much needed. With everything that’s going on right now, it just happened to be the right timing."
When Crenn came to San Francisco in the '90s, before opening her own renowned Atelier Crenn, she was invigorated and inspired by the wave of female talent leading kitchens. One of her first mentors, however, was in France, the iconic Anne-Sophie Pic—though she wasn't a "mentor" in the traditional sense.
"Mentor for me isn’t necessarily a person that you work with, but somebody that inspires you," Crenn says. "I remember when I discovered Pic a long time ago, this woman who was leading a kitchen. At the time there weren’t a lot of women out there." The chef also cites her mother and her grandmother, who imparted on her the French culinary wisdom that has informed her career. Her highly-anticipated next project, Bar Crenn, which opens at the end of February, will be an ode to the French classics.
"I’m very excited to be a representative of the French gastronomy in San Francisco and to celebrate my culture and where I come from and my heritage," she says.
Crenn is also excited to continue celebrating women in her industry, as well. The women cooking in Crenn's series are chefs she's admired for years. "All of them are amazing," she says. "I’m excited to be able to expose my team to them."
In fact, Crenn would love to take the dinner series on a "world tour" (if she can get the money to do it, she jokes.) There would clearly be no shortage of talent to it off.
"Women have been in the kitchen for a long, long time, but nobody has been talking about them," she says. "We are here to stay. We’re not going anywhere. And we’re pretty bad-ass in the kitchen."