Kirkus Reviews QR Code
REBEL CHEF by Dominique Crenn


In Search of What Matters

by Dominique Crenn with Emma Brockes

Pub Date: June 9th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-7352-2474-2
Publisher: Penguin Press

A Versaille-born female chef tells the story of how she came to the U.S. and, without formal training, went on to become a culinary icon.

Crenn grew up the adopted daughter of a “well-respected and connected” French politician and his wife. From childhood, she was drawn to food. Family dinner parties showed her that “food could be used to create an atmosphere of glamour and fun.” However, the cooking schools to which she applied after finishing university work all discouraged her, because in France, “the role of the chef as artist was reserved for men.” Searching for the freedom to chart her own path, she went to San Francisco in 1989. There, she embarked on a process of personal and political evolution that began with the recognition of her own lesbianism. Crenn also laid the foundation for her professional life by waitressing in restaurants and meeting people from the restaurant industry. With signature boldness, she introduced herself to renowned chef Jeremiah Tower, who became her first mentor. Crenn then left San Francisco for a job as an executive chef in a Jakarta hotel that promised her a staff of women, who she believed needed greater representation in the food world. Political unrest in Indonesia drove her to Los Angeles, where she began to develop a culinary style that fused French, California, and Asian cuisines. Crenn returned to San Francisco almost a decade later to open the first of several acclaimed restaurants that sourced from small farms, encouraged kitchen workers to be creative, and made diners aware they were “part of [a] chain, not above it.” Each dining experience would be “akin to reading poetry,” leadings diners “through waves of emotion.” Engaging and candid, this memoir offers a glimpse into a unique life as the author eloquently articulates the artistic, social, and political vision behind her daring, award-winning cuisine.

Delectable reading.

(b/w photos)