The Only Woman to Get Three Michelin Stars in the U.S. Is Changing the Cabo Culinary Game
Dominique Crenn is possibly the busiest person I've ever met. She runs a three-Michelin-starred restaurant. She is an active advocate for sustainable food practices around the world. Even when she's in Cabo to orchestrate the hottest culinary pop-up in North America, she is due back in L.A. to shoot a Master Class, and back in San Francisco at her world-renowned restaurant Atelier Crenn. To say her time is spoken for and her expertise is in high demand would be an understatement.
And yet, over the course of six nights, the only U.S.-based female chef to garner three Michelin stars cleared her schedule to serve 120 foodies dinner at her own (temporary) Montage Los Cabos home. The partnership between Montage Los Cabos and Dominique Crenn has been in the works since Crenn came down in 2019 to vacation and visit an old friend, executive chef of Montage Los Cabos Xavier Salomon. On her visit, the idea of Casa Crenn was born as a way to celebrate Atelier Crenn's 10-year anniversary and as an homage to Crenn's long-time pastry chef Juan Contreras, who's originally from Mexico.
I feasted at Casa Crenn on night three of six, but here's something I hadn't quite grasped until I showed up: Montage is home to three restaurants — Casa Crenn is held in none of them. Instead, Dominique Crenn and her team moved into one of Montage Los Cabos' exquisite casas, Casa Twin Dolphin, to create an unprecedented dining experience: 10 courses served in a luxury vacation home. It was the three-Michelin-starred magic of Atelier Crenn, in collaboration with chef Xavier's team, using only Mexican-sourced ingredients, served at the tip of Baja California Sur.
The collaboration really solidifies Cabo's status as a global food capital — which is a long time coming. The luxury resorts have, in the last five years, honed a reputation for bringing in top culinary talent — Montage leading that charge with a guest chef series they debuted upon opening in 2019 — while San José del Cabo's emerging food scene gets more impressive each year. But Dominique Crenn pinpointing Cabo as a temporary satellite campus for Atelier Crenn incomparably elevates Cabo's dining prowess.
The morning after my 10-course Casa Crenn experience, I rushed back to Casa Twin Dolphin to spend 20 minutes with Dominique Crenn. I flew from France to New York to Mexico to spend 44 hours in Cabo — all of it leading up to this 18-minute sit down. Fortunately, my French was well primed for meeting both chef Xavier, originally from Savoie, and chef Dominique, who hails from Brittany.
The mark of French chefs is not that they make impeccable bearnaise sauce, or use an abundance of butter, it's the precision with which they execute every plate that leaves their kitchen. And while that precision is tangible when dining with chef Dominique, her signature approach to haute cuisine diverges from what you'd expect of a French chef in one crucial way: She doesn't serve meat. Atelier Crenn has served exclusively pescatarian fare since 2018, and the menu at sister restaurant Petit Crenn has always been vegetable-forward, sans meat.
Crenn is extremely careful about sourcing ingredients and staunchly against factory farming. She practices what she preaches, too, only eating meat if she knows exactly where it came from.
"I've been like this for a long time," Crenn told me emphatically. And she leads by example.
"I work with fishermen who own their boats and go out there. I don't get things from Japan, I don't do all of that. For me as a chef, I have a responsibility to make sure that I'm doing the right thing," she said.
That culinary ethos comes through in every dish at Casa Crenn. Chef Dominique and chef Xavier scouted produce and fish locally, visiting farms outside Cabo and fishermen up near Todos Santos. She lights up talking about the farm tours and her stringent quality control measures. "It was really cool — I was very impressed," Crenn said.
Mexico sends some of its best exports to California, and as a part of the California community, Crenn adamantly opposes that practice. She set out to use only local purveyors when sourcing ingredients for Casa Crenn. No big business allowed.
Her biggest motivation behind coming down to Cabo to celebrate 10 years of Atelier Crenn, however, was simply to celebrate Mexico. Certainly, her friendship with chef Xavier and potentially budding partnership with Montage Los Cabos is an exciting perk. But ultimately, she wanted to celebrate Mexico, fusing her French training with her team's love of Mexico and her pastry chef Juan's Mexican roots.
"We want to celebrate this culture, it's amazing," she said. Dominique Crenn is nothing if not someone who puts thought into action. She had her eye on Mexico — she loved the property, and the idea of cooking not in a restaurant, but in a home. And she latched onto Montage's Casa Twin Dolphin as soon as she saw it. It's no surprise Casa Crenn came together beautifully — the only question now is, will it return for years to come? One can only hope.