I tore through this absolutely engaging memoir by Dominique Crenn, whose highly acclaimed San Francisco restaurant, Atelier Crenn, is the recipient of three Michelin stars. Charming, personable, and determined, Crenn found her way in the food world, despite the lack of female chefs in chauvinistic France where she grew up. She yearned for America, where she believed anything was possible (except for a decent sandwich). When I started this book, I thought that I might not connect with the world of fine cuisine, but I ended up being mesmerized by Crenn’s descriptions of creating, plating, and serving her food, which engage all of the senses. Not only that, but a great deal of Rebel Chef deals with her family, identity, sexuality, and search for home. This memoir is as tender, bold, sweet, and gracious as the chef herself.
Selected as a Staff Favorite Book of 2020 by S.B., Bookshop's Cookbook Buyer and Marketing Manager.
The inspiring and deeply personal memoir from highly acclaimed chef Dominique Crenn
By the time Dominique Crenn decided to become a chef, at the age of twenty-one, she knew it was a near impossible dream in France where almost all restaurant kitchens were run by men. So, she left her home and everything she knew to move to San Francisco, where she would train under the legendary Jeremiah Tower. Almost thirty years later, Crenn was awarded three Michelin Stars in 2018 for her influential restaurant Atelier Crenn, and became the first female chef in the United States to receive this honor – no small feat for someone who hadn’t gone to culinary school or been formally trained.
In Rebel Chef, Crenn tells of her untraditional coming-of-age as a chef, beginning with her childhood in Versailles where she was emboldened by her parents to be curious and independent. But there is another reason Crenn has always felt free to pursue her own unconventional course. Adopted as a toddler, she didn't resemble her parents or even look traditionally French. Growing up she often felt like an outsider, and was haunted by a past she knew nothing about. But after years of working to fill this blank space, Crenn has embraced the power her history gives her to be whoever she wants to be.
Here is a disarmingly honest and revealing look at one woman's evolution from a daring young chef to a respected activist. Reflecting on the years she spent working in the male-centric world of professional kitchens, Crenn tracks her career from struggling cook to running one of the world’s most acclaimed restaurants, while at the same time speaking out on restaurant culture, sexism, immigration, and climate change. At once a tale of personal discovery and a tribute to unrelenting determination, Rebel Chef is the story of one woman making a place for herself in the kitchen, and in the world.
About the Author
Dominique Crenn is the chef/owner of Atelier Crenn, Petit Crenn, Bar Crenn and Boutique Crenn. Highly celebrated as the first female chef in the United States to receive three Michelin stars, Crenn focuses on cuisine as a craft and the community as an inspiration. Adopted and raised in Versailles, France, she began her formal culinary training when she moved to San Francisco in 1990 and worked under luminaries Jeremiah Tower and Mark Franz. As an active member of the culinary community, Crenn is passionate about promoting innovation, sustainability, and equality.
“In a delectable memoir marked by the same elegance that earned her international foodie renown, Crenn chronicles her journey from a childhood amid the lush farmland and wild coast of Brittany, to establishing an all-women kitchen in Indonesia, to taking the machismo out of Californian cuisine.” —O Magazine
“Chef Dominique Crenn pens a deeply personal and moving memoir that will leave you inspired in more ways than one. Rebel Chef: In Search of What Matters is an honest account of her untraditional coming-of-age story, her relentless courage to fight sexism in a male-dominated industry, and her evolution from orphan to chef to activist — and being the first woman in the United States to be awarded three Michelin stars for her restaurant Atelier Crenn.” —CNN.com
“[A] high-spirited memoir . . . Crenn’s story is one of accomplishment, empowerment, entrepreneurship and resilience . . . Straightforward and candid and written in spare, warm prose.. this memoir provides a glimpse into an extraordinary artist who lives fully on her own inspiring terms.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“The book opens in an orphanage near Paris, and from the very first sentence to its powerful end, the chef spins a fascinating, tumultuous and ultimately triumphant tale. Brava Dominique!” —Ruth Reichl, author of Save Me the Plums
“Dominique Crenn is a hero to so many of us, both inside and out of the restaurant industry. She has unlimited courage to always follow her own path, to carve her own way in the world. This book, and Dominique’s whole life, show that everything and anything is possible if you believe in yourself and you keep pushing forward, always forward. Dominique represents the very best that chefs can be … her mentorship, her creativity, her endless humanity are where we should all find inspiration for the future.”—José Andrés, chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup and founder of World Central Kitchen
“Unlike those of us chefs who came meekly into the world of professional kitchens, blinking and panicked, Dominique Crenn appeared self-possessed, knives drawn, skewering her way to a career that exhaust’s all superlatives. In Rebel Chef, she is as original and disarming on the page as she is behind the stove. This is a fascinating tale of an extraordinary half-life.”—Dan Barber, chef and co-owner of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and author of The Third Plate
“Chef Dominique Crenn is a trailblazer and by far one of the best chefs in the world. Her stories are truly an inspiration. In Rebel Chef, Crenn gives you a little taste of what her journey was like in the culinary space. Keep inspiring us with your work, Chef!”—Marcus Samuelsson, chef and restaurateur of Red Rooster Harlem
“Chef Dominque Crenn is known for combining flavors and re-contextualizing ingredients to tell stories on the plate. In Rebel Chef, she embarks on a different form of narrative and shares the story of her life. It’s a tale of resilience and self-agency, a memoir that underscores the value of perspective. It celebrates the virtue of seeing challenges as opportunities and failures as a chance to learn. Perhaps more than anything, this compelling book reveals its subject as a generous and adventurous spirt, a woman who has learned to embrace the unexpected and to treasure life, in the kitchen and beyond, as an enriching and largely unplanned journey.”—Thomas Keller, chef/proprietor of The French Laundry
“A captivating life story of one of today’s most influential chefs. Dominique is a force and true inspiration.”—Eric Ripert, chef and co-owner of Le Bernardin
“Dominique Crenn’s new book, Rebel Chef: In Search Of What Matters, takes the reader on a wonderful journey full of magical moments, heartbreaking knockdowns, and ultimately a tremendous victory. Her cooking is, as she writes, “an act of communication and caring” and Rebel Chef is exactly that.”—Nancy Silverton, chef, owner of Mozza Restaurant Group, and founder of La Brea Bakery
“Dominique Crenn is one of the most creative and thoughtful people I know in the food world, and her memoir is everything I'd hoped for: a candid account of her evolution from French orphan to nine-year-old family cook to history-making chef – and outspoken advocate for change in her profession and beyond.”—Harold McGee, author of On Food and Cooking and Keys to Good Cooking
“Add the indomitable Dominque Crenn to the list of modern day big thinkers and life coaches. Her story is nothing short of remarkable. A chef, poet, artist, anarchist, activist, a mother, a daughter…the wisdom that jumps off every page makes me so grateful to call this beautiful human being my friend. When every opportunity in life inspires a question and then an adventure, when problems become invitations, when success is measured by the love in one’s life you have just a hint at what is unveiled one page at a time in this must read autobiography.” —Andrew Zimmern
“The road to becoming a chef is not just about ingredients and techniques but even more about finding one’s voice. Rebel Chef tells the tale of a young woman on her reach for identity through food, community, and love. Thank you, Dominique, for sharing.” —Massimo Bottura, chef and owner of Osteria Francescana
“This is a book of journeys: from France to San Francisco (with riveting detours), from her early appreciation of food to mastering the craft, from young girl to all-around badass... Dom Crenn delivers a memoir inspiring EVERYONE. Bon courage!”—Brooke Baldwin, CNN Newsroom