The art of resilience and creative determination are woven throughout Dominique Crenn and Co-Author Emma Brockes’ memoir, Rebel Chef. This raw insight into Chef Crenn’s life is the secret behind her poetic plating. She is a natural story teller giving readers and dinners a taste of her life, leaving a few pockets of time open for the imagination. You do not need to know every detail of her relationships or decisions made in order to experience her dauntless spirit. This was a short, quick read, packed with inspiration! Being a Latina, woman business owner drawn to the culinary world by a deep calling from within, I found this book speaking to me on so many levels. Just as Dominique experienced a male dominated industry telling her she couldn’t be chef, I too was told that I would never work in a commercial kitchen. Dominique struggled with a sense of belonging, which stemmed from being adopted. This feeling followed into her leadership roles in male dominated work environments, continued to shade her as she became an immigrant and finally we also see this wrestling with identity in her sexual self-discovery. Even though she was given up at birth, Dominique makes her readers fall in love with her adopted parents and brother for the kind hearted people they are and were, and she knew she would be where she is without them. Her life trajectory sent her on many adventurers ultimately leading her to her destined role as the first Female Chef to receive three Michelin Stars!
I cannot say that my childhood and self-identity was broken due to adoption, but I can relate to the sense of not belonging. It lies deep within those of us who feel it and for some like me, would invite a cloud of self-doubt to deter my individual, gifted course. When reading about real people, especially immigrant women, who know their end goal without a doubt that they will achieve it, I am overwhelmed with emotion. Happy for them, but momentarily jealous. Why can I not have that same determination, success, and sense of achievement? Then I collect myself and realize I have succeeded in many ways. One being, that I did complete culinary school, while raising a family and working full-time. I did go on to cook in a professional kitchen and I continue to create joy in my kitchen studio, today! It’s great books and life stories like that of Rebel Chef that cause you to reflect on your own life.
I would recommend this book for any entrepreneur that would benefit in hearing the ups and downs that prelude success. Also, just as beautiful Dominique’s story is, so are the captured elements of the culinary world, along with her creative expression found in her food. I choose this book for our March book club read, because Chef Crenn has made history and will be remembered a long time from now for her steadfast determination, artistic talents and personal sacrifices. Being Women’s History month, I thought it appropriate to include this read along with a book pair of, We are La Cocina, a collective work supporting the organization that helps immigrant women and women of color in building successful food businesses. As seen in the picture, I was inspired to create an interpretation of of Onigiri with spicy shrimp and lemon foam. Since Chef Crenn shared her appreciation for Japanese food, seafood and creative techniques like that of making edible foams, I thought this to be an ode to her.