Dominique Crenn wins third Michelin Star, a first for a female chef in the United States

Chef Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn in San Francisco. Crenn has become the first woman in the United States to receive three stars from the Michelin Guide. With the release of its 2019 guidebook, the Bay Area now has eight three-star restaurants, t
Chef Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn in San Francisco. Crenn has become the first woman in the United States to receive three stars from the Michelin Guide. With the release of its 2019 guidebook, the Bay Area now has eight three-star restaurants, trailing only Paris and Tokyo. PHOTO: MATT EDGE / THE NEW YORK TIMES

CALIFORNIA/NEW YORK (NYTimes) - The chef Dominique Crenn has become the first woman in the United States to receive three stars from the Michelin Guide, its highest rating, for her modernist San Francisco restaurant Atelier Crenn.

The guide's 2019 stars for the Bay Area were announced Thursday amid intense speculation that Crenn, who has already won many of the culinary world's top prizes, might break that barrier.

The restaurant Single Thread, opened in Sonoma County just two years ago by chef Kyle Connaughton and his wife, Katina Connaughton, also won three stars. That brings the number of three-star restaurants in the Bay Area to eight, more than in any other metropolitan area in the world except Paris and Tokyo. (New York City has five three-star restaurants.) One San Francisco restaurant was dropped from three stars to two: Coi, which had received a third star just last year. And there are five new one-star restaurants in the Bay Area: Madcap, Birdsong, Nico, Protégé and Crenn's jewel box of a wine bar, Bar Crenn.

Michelin's global network of anonymous inspectors lends its ratings a bit more ballast than those of newer entries like the World's 50 Best Restaurants list and La Liste (which announced its worldwide rankings Thursday).

But there is a growing sense in the culinary world that the kind of elaborate dining favoured by Michelin - whether a four-hour kaiseki meal in Kyoto or a 40-course tasting menu in the Napa Valley - is dated and impractical. With so many competing lists and algorithms, along with constant waves of diners' reviews on TripAdvisor, Yelp and other platforms, Michelin may be less relevant than ever before.

Still, for many chefs - especially French-born ones like Crenn - three Michelin stars remains the pinnacle of achievement in the field.

In a telephone interview, Crenn was breathless.

"It's amazing," she said. "Amazing for my team at Bar Crenn and especially at Atelier Crenn. I'm humbled. We worked so hard for so many years and this is a dream. Today we're celebrating, but tomorrow we go back to work."

As to the distinction of being the first female chef in the United States to earn three stars, she said: "It's a platform I now have; I must inspire others and make a difference."

At Single Thread, Connaughton broke away from a celebration with his staff to say: "We're incredibly excited. We're a group of 64 people who have put their passion into this, and I'm so proud of what they accomplished."