San Francisco is a city transformed by programmers, staggering wealth and start-ups. But the Michelin-starred chef Dominique Crenn remains attuned to the sense of possibility that has long drawn artists, innovators and pioneering spirits to the City by the Bay. Ms. Crenn, the first woman in the United States to receive three Michelin stars for a restaurant, arrived in San Francisco nearly 30 years ago, after earning a degree in international business in her native France. “I was at the airport and I didn’t know anything about San Francisco. I got out of the plane and I felt something powerful. And I remember thinking, I’m home,” said Ms. Crenn, who grew up in Versailles and spent summers in Brittany.
Atelier Crenn, her seafood-focused restaurant, opened in 2011 and has received three Michelin stars. Her other two restaurants, Petit Crenn and Bar Crenn, have each earned a Michelin star. Ms. Crenn said San Francisco still fuels her creativity. “There’s an energy in San Francisco that perhaps you don’t find anywhere else. It’s surrounded by the sea, the mountains, you have everything here.” She shares her favorite places in the city.
Even though Ms. Crenn has her own organic farm in Sonoma County she still goes to this popular farmers market twice a week. For her, it’s an important forum to learn about food and agriculture. “Here you talk to the people who are growing those potatoes or those leeks,” she said. “Look at their hands, there’s dirt under their nails.”
Ferry Building Marketplace; ferrybuildingmarketplace.com/farmers-market
“Maybe this is too geeky, but I like things geeky,” Ms. Crenn said of her fascination with this unconventional science museum that is considered one of the best in the country. The Exploratorium, which marks its 50th anniversary this year, revolutionized the teaching of science through play and participation. Here you can step inside an indoor simulation of a tornado, hear the wind strumming a giant harp, or view a total solar eclipse via webcast. “It just gets you going. And takes your curiosity to the next level,” she said.
Pier 15, The Embarcadero; exploratorium.edu
If you only had one day in San Francisco, Ms. Crenn would send you to North Beach, the bustling, historically Italian-American neighborhood bordering Chinatown. Not much has changed since Joe DiMaggio grew up here and played baseball in this neighborhood of trattorias, cafes and small boutiques. “It’s not hipster,” Ms. Crenn said, “it’s a neighborhood, you know?” Among her favorite haunts are Beat Generation vestiges such as City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, Vesuvio Cafe and Caffe Trieste, where Francis Ford Coppola wrote much of the screenplay for “The Godfather.”
Northeast San Francisco between Fisherman’s Wharf and the Financial District
When Ms. Crenn needs to unwind, she heads to the Alamo Drafthouse in the Mission District where moviegoers can order appetizers and dinner. The fare is far better than your standard movie theater nachos. “I always order the pretzel and a glass of rosé,” she said. This being San Francisco, that’s a whole-grain, honey-mustard pretzel with Hatch green chile queso.
2550 Mission Street; drafthouse.com/sf/theater/new-mission
If you dine at one of Ms. Crenn’s restaurants, it’s likely your meal was inspired by her love of the sea, her mother’s garden, or an artist on display at the de Young Museum. “There is something about the de Young that is pretty amazing,” she said, “I can easily spend three to five hours there.” Ms. Crenn believes there is a symbiotic relationship between food and art. “Art is an emotion. And if you can translate that into something you can taste, it can take you into that space.”
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive; deyoung.famsf.org