Conversations about how diet impacts the climate crisis have ramped up this past year, with a UN report published in August 2019 suggesting that eating less meat and reducing food waste could help save the planet.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that top chefs are sitting up and taking notice, too.
Dominque Crenn, a pioneering restaurateur with three Michelin stars to her name, has announced she’ll no longer be serving meat in her portfolio of highly successful San Francisco eateries.
“Meat is complicated,” she told CNN Travel in an interview about her meat-free decision. “We have to be thoughtful about the ecosystem that we’re living in and not to destroy it because of the instant gratification and the demand of others.”
Concerned about the sometimes murky world of food provenance, Crenn decided it was easiest to remove meat from the menu altogether.
This decision didn’t come out of the blue. Crenn’s popular restaurants are known for dishing up veggie and fish-focused twists on traditional French cuisine.
“What people haven’t talked about is [since] I opened Petit Crenn in 2015, it’s been fully vegetarian and pescatarian, we didn’t have any meat there,” says Crenn. “But I never advertised it.
“And then Atelier has been meat free for the last two years.”
Crenn’s upcoming project Boutique Crenn, due to open in San Francisco’s Salesforce Tower in 2020, is set to be veggie-only, too.
As a child growing up on a farm in France’s northwestern Brittany region, Crenn was immersed in a culture where, she told CNN Travel back in 2018, there was “a lot of care and connection with the soil.”
“When I came here, it was very important to me, if I’m getting into that business, I needed to understand where the food comes from,” she adds now.
Crenn personally sources her produce, whether it’s vegetables, fish or meat. Often, she grows the vegetables on her own farm.
“I’m not a pescatarian, I’m not a vegetarian, but I’m also a conscious person,” Crenn says. “And I know the impact of the way that we fix meat nowadays is not good. It’s killing us, it’s killing the planet.”
While Crenn feels a responsibility to address the problem, she also says she’s not trying to “impose anything on anyone.”
Instead, the chef wants people to think about the consequences of their diet and come to their own conclusions.
And while Crenn sees some positives in veganism, she doesn’t intend to adopt that diet — either for herself or at her restaurants, expressing concern about the provenance of vegan products available on the market.
As for fish — well, for now, it’s still on the menu in some of her restaurants — but Crenn’s going to keep considering that choice.
“Fish also is a problem,” Crenn says. “So don’t be surprised if in a few years if I become all vegetarian.”
Crenn, who recently announced she is cancer-free following a diagnosis earlier this year, is known for being vocal and passionate about her beliefs.
She’s a champion of gender equality in the restaurant industry and culinary arts.
While she was honored to be named the world’s best female chef by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants List in 2016, Crenn also expressed her frustration at the fact there was a separate category for women.
The reaction to her new meat-free culinary philosophy, Crenn says, has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive.
But if any naysayers protest meat’s integral place in haute-cuisine, Crenn will shrug them off.
“The decision doesn’t come from what my guests want. The decision comes from what this planet needs. What decisions as humans we need to make for the planet to be better,” she says.
“I’m trying to make the best decision for my surroundings and the planet and myself. But I’m not forcing anybody to do that.
But what am I asking is — I really want people to think about their actions and their behavior and what they can impact on their own. And it’s pretty easy. You know, the little things will go such a long way.”