Chef Dominique Crenn Gets Down on the Farm
Yesterday, the folks at the new InterContinental San Francisco stopped in New York to talk about the property, the plans, and, of course, the food. The 32-story InterContinental--expected to be the last major hotel to debut in the hilly city for the next seven years or so--was built with the future in mind: It is registered with the U.S. Green Building Council to pursue LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.
French-born Crenn first worked with the InterContinental family in
1997 in Jakarta, where she took the helm at the hotel's restaurant, as
well as the title of first female executive chef in Indonesia. From
what I saw yesterday, Crenn has made herself at home again in San
Francisco--she was there in the 90s, working at the celebrated
Stars and Campton Place, among others--and feels particularly happy
about the relationships she is able to have with local farmers there. Luce,
her restaurant at the InterContinental San Francisco, features a supper
menu with new American instruments, Italian baselines, and notes from
all the other places Crenn has traveled over the years: Hawaiian
butterfish gets baby carrots, mango purée, pickled Savoy cabbage, and a
smoked pancetta gastrique; lamb and lamb cheeks from Sonoma Farm Lamb are served with a date tagine, slow-cooked Gigante beans, basil "soil" and garlic purée.
Crenn landscapes her plates like she might a garden, too; there are
more literal takes on this, like her root vegetables that "grow" out of
"soil" (dehydrated black olives or basil mixed with Panko bread
crumbs), but even the carrot cake is placed in such a way that you want
to walk through it and pick from it. For yesterday's meal, Crenn flew in her
ingredients from the West Coast overnight, including some gorgeous
Niman Ranch beef she topped with crunchy, almost pebble-size sea salt
(well, that was from Brittany). Crenn clearly has farmers in mind from
start to finish. Whether you can tell or not, you'll certainly wonder just what it is that makes her food so darn good.