French chef is first woman in US to get 3 stars

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French chef Dominique Crenn has become the first woman in the United States to earn three Michelin stars, its highest rating, for her modernist San Francisco restaurant Atelier Crenn which she opened in 2011.

“Dominique Crenn’s lauded Atelier Crenn was one of the most closely followed restaurants this year and has been elevated from two to three stars,” the Michelin Guide said in a statement.

In Michelin speak, three stars mean “exceptional cuisine that is worth a special journey”.

The guide praised Atelier Crenn’s current menu for its “wonderful balance of grace, artistry, technical ability and taste”.

This degree of excellence doesn’t come cheap and dinner for two will set you back around 600 euros. But the restaurant also offers diners the unique experience of an original poem in place of a standard menu, with specific lines of the poem evoking its experimental, naturalistic dishes.

Amazing recognition

The merits of receiving Michelin stars has been questioned in recent years but for many French chefs it’s still a kind of holy grail.

“It’s an amazing recognition,” Crenn told the media after the announcement was made. “Amazing for my team and all the work we have done over the years.”

The distinction bestowed on Crenn is doubly welcome for the 53-year-old chef, who failed to make it into this year’s 50 Best Restaurants guide.

An inspiration to women

More than 120 restaurants around the world have three Michelin stars, but only five are run by women: Arzak (Elena Arzak), Maison Pic (Anne-Sophie Pic), Dal Pescatore (Nadia Santini), Sant Pau (Carme Ruscadella) and now, Atelier Crenn.

Crenn said she hoped her success would inspire young woman to push ahead with their dreams.

“I tell them today, ‘You can do anything you want to do’, it has nothing to do with gender,” she said. “Go out there and just do it. “Never let someone stand in your way.”

Named “World’s best female chef” in 2016 Crenn said it was “stupid” for the profession to have a distinction based on gender.

Growing up in a food culture

Crenn, who was adopted at 18 months by a French couple from Versailles, has said that she inherited her interest in cuisine from her parents, who enjoyed fine dining.

She began her formal kitchen training in San Francisco in 1988 and in 1997 moved to Indonesia, heading the kitchen at the InterContinental Hotel in Jakarta.

She moved back to California in 1998, working as executive chef at a Manhattan Beach restaurant for several years.

Atelier Crenn was launched in 2011, quickly earning its first Michelin star and a second in 2012.

SingleThread, another restaurant in the Bay Area, was also awarded three stars.