Atelier Crenn is Dominique Crenn’s two-Michelin-starred restaurant that hits somewhere between a scrapbook of the chef’s memories of her father and a modernist culinary dreamscape where every dish is a work of art. In other words, it’s very personal. So, the fact that Crenn has hired someone in an executive chef role for the first time is a kind of a big deal. Chef Jonny Black will step into the role effective immediately, joining Crenn, and partner/pastry chef Juan Contreras in leading the team.
The decision is part of Crenn’s strategy for growing her team, and her restaurant group— Black will oversee the kitchens of Atelier Crenn and the upcoming Bar Crenn (now expected to open in September). Crenn’s busy schedule —she spoke with Eater SF from her Atelier Crenn on the Road cooking tour in Tokyo— is part of the impetus for hiring an executive chef. “I need someone at the management level, someone that I can trust to really focus on bringing Atelier Crenn to the next level,” Crenn told Eater. “It’s not that we are becoming more corporate.”
Black returns to the Bay Area from Washington, D.C., where he was working as a sous chef at Pineapple and Pearls, one of the city’s breakaway fine dining hits (Eater critic Bill Addison named it one of the country’s best restaurants in 2016). For three years prior he was the chef de cuisine at Quince, which earned its third Michelin star shortly after he left; Pineapple and pearls earned a two star rating for 2017. Crenn says Black’s time in New York, in kitchens like Corton and Per Se is a positive, in addition to his intimate knowledge of the Bay Area. “He’s epic and amazing,” said Crenn. “It’s nice to work with someone who has really paid their dues.”
Meanwhile, several other shuffles have been afoot internally, including the promotion of Felix Santos to R&D chef, and Kevin Finch to executive sous chef. “We are growing and I want to make sure that everyone that works with us now is getting promoted and growing with the team,” said Crenn. “I think it’s more the old way of doing things; before, I hired people from outside [the restaurant] without knowing the structure that I really wanted.” And with the addition of Bar Crenn next door, Crenn says it’s important for her small team to have good leadership, and most importantly, great technique.
Front of house is seeing some changes as well, as sommelier Matt Montrose rises to become the wine director for the entire Crenn Dining Group; general manager Maxime Larquier is running front of the house, making changes that Crenn says now match what the team has been doing in the kitchen.
Stay tuned for more details on chef Black, plus photos and intel on Atelier Crenn’s new interior.