Dominique Crenn Speaks Out About the Challenges Plaguing Chefs Today

Dominique Crenn is one of the world's greatest culinary masterminds. She has repeatedly landed on in the top five of our Top 100 chefs list and is the top woman chef on this coveted list.

She is also the only female chef in the U.S. to have earned three Michelin stars for her renowned restaurant Atelier Crenn in San Francisco, CA.

And her list of achievements just goes on.

She has appeared in the popular Netflix documentary series Chef's Table, was named Esquire’s “Chef of the Year” in 2008, Eater's chef of the year in 2015, won the Iron Chef America competition in 2012, and was given a James Beard Award for Best Chef just this year.

Like most female chefs in this male-dominated industry, there have been challenges.

"When I started to work in the kitchen, there's not a lot of women that were working and I didn't try to pay attention to that," said Crenn to "NPR." "I had to work harder than others and I was a bit picked on sometimes. But I'm a very strong person. Nobody touched me."

Although she is deemed one of the greatest chefs today, Crenn still is treated differently because she is a woman.

"She has been successful because she does have talent and she has worked hard. But let's be honest, also because she has enormous charisma. She's beautiful and has that French accent," said Michael Buer, San Francisco restaurant critic to "The New York Times" who also said, "she cooks the way men are cooking."

Crenn, rightfully so, saw these comments as "degrading."

"I think he never should have said that. ... Saying that about me is a little bit degrading. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but that should not be a factor in anything. And yes, charisma — what is charisma? I'm trying to be genuine every time I speak or every time I'm out there. Maybe you call it charisma, but this is who I am," said Crenn to "NPR."

But thanks to the #MeToo movement and strong leaders like Crenn, the industry is changing for the better. Crenn humbly recognizes that she is making a difference.

"I am just a little fish in the sea. But I do understand that everything that I do could have a little impact," said Crenn.

Read Crenn's full interview at "NPR" now.

We recently interviewed another chef and restaurant operator Jennifer Kim making a name for herself as a female leader in the industry. Her restaurant in Chicago named Passerotto opened last year with the goal of serving a modern take on traditional Korean food. Watch the video below to learn more about her journey in the restaurant industry.

How This Program is Cultivating Female Chefs to be Next-Generation Leaders and Activists



Restaurant kitchens are still dominated by the male sex and men earn an average of 28.1% more than female chefs, according to recent statistics from Glassdoor.

But thanks to the #MeToo movement and other activist movements aiming to diversify kitchens, the industry is changing for the better.

According to the National Restaurant Association, more than half of the restaurants in the U.S. are owned or are co-owned by women. 45% of restaurant managers are women, compared to the 38% of female managers found in other industries.

This is certainly a step in the right direction.

Edward Lee, a restaurateur and chef of five restaurants, founded The LEE Initiative, the nonprofit behind the Women Chefs of Kentucky Initiative. This program helps to cultivate female chefs to be much more than someone who cooks in the kitchen.

"What we're looking for are young women chefs who are not only going to rise to be great chefs, owners, investors, what have you, but also great activists for the next generation," said Lee to "PBS NewsHour."

Five chefs were selected for the first year of the program. The goal is to launch more female leaders into the industry.

"We wanted a way to bridge the gap between women in leadership roles and women at the bottom in the restaurant industry," said Lindsey Ofcacek, The LEE Initiative's managing director. "When you come in, you see a lot of women who are servers and back waits and bussers and bartenders, but you don't meet a lot of women who are general managers, chefs and owners."

Read more about some of the chefs participating in the program and about their experience so far at "PBS" now.

Besides programs like Women Chefs of Kentucky Initiative, there is also a new generation of female super-star chefs who are working tirelessly to make a name for themselves and to introduce more of their culture in the culinary scene.

Chef and restaurant operator Jennifer Kim opened a new restaurant in Chicago named Passerotto last year with the goal of serving a modern take on traditional Korean food. Watch the video below to learn more about her journey in the restaurant industry.