Three to get ready

This is week three of our conversation with Chef Dominique Crenn, 2016’s world best female chef and participant in this year’s Euphoria food and wine festival in Greenville SC, on the weekend of September 21-24.  Along with other chefs, including La Farm’s Master Baker Lionel Vatinet, Chef Dominique’s innovative and imaginative cuisine will be showcased Saturday evening at the Seeing Stars dinner.

Iron Chef America is a competition series based on the hit Japanese show.  It pits a stable of chefs; dubbed “Iron Chefs”, against chef-challengers.  The two go head to head in Kitchen Stadium.  Using a mystery theme ingredient, a culinary battle ensues during which each chef creates a minimum of five dishes.New Iron Chefs were anointed in The Next Iron Chef, a single elimination series with ten of America’s premiere chefs competing for the title.  In 2009, Chef Dominique competed in season two, which eventually saw Jose Garces winning the title.

In a case of sweet, sweet karma, in 2010 she competed on Iron Chef America where she trounced Chef Michael Symon in battle yogurt.

Chef Michael Symon.  He’s not just unhappy about that ugly jacket he’s wearing…

Chef Crenn and I recently had a phone interview.  This is the third and final part of that conversation.

Iron Chef; where by the way you were robbed, Oh, you are sweet, but I didn’t want to.  Oh Really?  Looking back, I am not someone who would be happy doing that.How did you keep coming up with such imaginative and original dishes during the competition?  You know, I’d just look at the ingredient and try to understand what the ingredient is about.  Kind of like, go back, deep into your memories, and do things that perhaps, you have eaten before; maybe what you mother used to cook, and you’re just being creative, you know?  And it’s quite interesting, because you compete with others that don’t have the same background that you have or come from the same country.  Obviously, this is not France, and that was my point of reference.  Then you are judged by those that are not French at all, so I try to connect with them.  It was a lot of fun–it was a lot of fun.Things that you guys came up with, week after week, some of them should have been classics.  You wonder why someone hadn’t come up with that fifty years ago.  One time they gave me a sea cucumber to cook.  But they didn’t give me fresh, they gave me frozen sea cucumber, and I’m like, “Really?  Are you serious?”  So, anyway.

I have one more question for you, and I won’t steal any more of your time.  What is one thing about you, that no one would ever guess?  I used to be a little ballerina.  Yeah, I was not disciplined enough, I guess.  And, I was so bored.  Yeah.Chef, thank you so very much for taking time for this.

Chef Dominique Crenn may not have had the discipline for ballet, but she had enough to earn a baccalaureate in economics and a bachelor’s degree in international business from the Academy of International Commerce of Paris, then move to San Francisco and start her education all over in some of the best restaurants and under the tutelage of its best chefs.  And only nine years later she was so well regarded she moved to Indonesia as the area’s first female executive chef.

I’ll bet, on that journey, she was never bored.Next week is the last pre-Euphoria chef chat.  Chef Trey Bell, of Greensboro’s LaRue Elm, will be under the microscope.Thanks for your time.

Profile, The Second

This is week two of the Euphoria chef series.  Starting on September 21st, and running through the weekend, Greenville SC will be holding the Euphoria food, wine and music festival.  Chefs from all around the country will attend to cook and teach.

I’ve been lucky enough to interview a few of those attending.  Last week, Chef Scott Crawford of Crawford and Son, in Raleigh was generous enough to do an email interview.Chef Dominique Crenn, is chef/owner of Atelier Crenn and Petit Crenn in San Francisco.  She holds two Michelin stars, and the title of world’s best female chef.  Chef Crenn was a finalist on Food Network’s Next Iron Chef.  She’s also mother to two little girls, and an extremely chic French woman.  I’m a huge admirer.Chef Crenn kindly consented to the interview, but rather than doing it via email, she wanted a telephone conversation.  On one hand, I was thrilled.  But on the other, I was petrified.  I felt like a middle-school science student interrogating Sir Steven Hawking.

I needn’t have worried.  She was gracious and patient.  What follows is a transcript of the call (When you read her answers, imagine them in a charming French accent).France does many, many, many food things better than the US.  What does the US do better?  I don’t know if it’s better than France, what I like about the United States is liberty and freedom, of thinking and creativity.  There is less bureaucracy than in France.

What is the one French food or food experience you miss the most?  My mother’s cooking. What was one of your favorite?  Many, many, many dishes.  She used to make this beautiful whole salmon or any type of fish that used to come from the fish monger.  And roast it with many beautiful vegetables and herbs with some olive oil in the oven.  Just delicious, and I miss that.  And I miss her famous tarte tatin, which is an upside-down apple tart that she used to make—that I miss, a lot.  It’s comfort food, you know?  It’s made with so much love.

What is your guilty pleasure?  Chocolate.What is your favorite?  Maybe a chocolate with a praline (The French pronunciation of praline is prah-lee-nay).

What do you make when you get home from the Atelier and it’s late, and you’re hungry?  Grilled cheese sandwich.

Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn Open-Faced Sandwich

One of Chef’s grilled cheese creations.

What kind of cheese?  Comté cheese, or some type of aged goat cheese.

You have twin daughters, how old are they?  Three years old.

What do they eat for lunch?  Do they like grilled cheese too?  It’s very interesting.  They’re very picky, but they love everything vegetable.  They love pasta and pizza, but we make everything from scratch.  They love cauliflower!  They like to go shop and pick up their own vegetable and go home and cook it, so this is pretty cool.I read what you said about American kids, that they’re our most treasured possession, but we feed them the worst food.  It’s very important to introduce to your kids a very healthy diet.  Fresh food; stay away from the prefab food.  You know in the long run, before the age of four, this is where they get their taste and understanding what food is about, without even knowing, and this is very true.

This ain’t no Ginsu knife, boys and girls…

What five tools can you not live without?  I don’t know if it’s a tool, but I cannot live without salt.  Definitely, a good, sharp knife.

What type of knife do you use?  Japanese.

Please join me next week for more of my conversation with Chef Crenn.

One bad ass woman.

Thanks for your time.


Chefs in Profile

On the weekend of September 21st through the 24th, there will be a food festival in Greenville, SC.  It’s the 12th annual Euphoria celebration.  The Kid and I will attend.

To get us all in the mood, I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview and get to know some very talented chefs who will be cooking at Euphoria.

First up is Chef Scott Crawford of Raleigh.

Chef Scott Crawford

In addition to five years as executive chef at the Umstead Hotel and Spa, Chef Scott ran the kitchen at the groundbreaking Standard Foods and Grocery.  Last year in the Oakwood neighborhood in Raleigh, he introduced Crawford and Son, a love letter to sustainable Southern cuisine.

A champion of folks working hospitality, he founded the Raleigh chapter of Ben’s Friends, a support group for people in the industry with substance abuse and addiction issues.

All three chefs got a very similar set of 15 questions.  I believe the compare/contrast helps us to get to know and understand them a bit better.

What follows is Chef’s questions and answers; verbatim.1.) For your tomato sandwich: Duke’s, Hellmann’s or homemade? What kind of bread? DUKES! Fresh milk bread…still warm.

2.) What is your “Can’t wait to get your hands on” seasonal ingredient, and what’s your favorite treatment? Apples! I love how many different apples are grown in North Carolina. Some of my favorite treatments that happen every year: Bacon-Apple Marmalade, Vanilla Apple Pickles, Sherry-Apple Date Butter, Green Apple Granita

3.) What is your guilty pleasure? Cookie Butter!

4.) What do you make when you get home from the Crawford & Son and it’s late, and you’re hungry? I make huge, fresh vegetable salads with olive oil, and lots of vinegar and crunchy salt.

Every chef has the tools they can’t live without.  This is Julia Child’s famous peg boards with some of her “can’t-live-withouts”.

5.) What five tools can you not live without? Japanese Utility Knife, Mini Offset Spatula, Sharpie, Peeler, Pepper Mill. In a professional kitchen, these are the must haves.

6.) What five ingredients can you not cook without? Salt, Pepper, Vinegar, Olive Oil, Sugar. I can make anything taste good with these ingredients.

7.) What is one dish that a novice cook should learn for entertaining that’s easy, impressive, and inexpensive? (Any recipe you care to share will be highly appreciated) Soup! No one makes good soup anymore.

Just eat around the stones…

8.) What in the culinary world angers or disappoints you? As an industry, we still haven’t figured out how to truly take care of our own. That upsets me. I don’t have all the answers yet but I won’t rest until we can do better.

9.) What in the culinary world pleases you and gives you hope for the future? The culinary world welcomes all types and gives us an outlet for creative energy. It also offers an intensity not found in other creative jobs. It’s addictive.

10.) What’s your birthday dinner? Anything…as long as it’s with my family. 😊

11.) What do you take on a picnic? We love to go hiking and find a relaxing spot to sit and eat pastries from a local bakery called Boulted Bread.

Big fan of Boulted as well.  And yes, they grind their own, right in the bakery.

12.) What food trend or ingredient are you totally and completely over? Liquid Nitrogen.

13.) What is the best way for passionate but not affluent people to enjoy fine dining?   Tour their favorite food city lunching and brunching. Lower price point but equal excitement.

A cornu-freaking-copia every single visit.

14.) Favorite local farmers market and vendor? Ronnie Moore’s here at Raleigh Farmers Market.

15.) What is one thing about you that nobody would ever guess? At one point in my life, I lived in my car. 😳Thanks for your time.