As Chef Pâtissier at Atelier Crenn, Juan Contreras’ dishes insinuate appearances and are meant to trigger memories, evoke emotions, and stimulate senses as they embody the restaurant’s mission: to encourage guests to engage in culinary dialogues. His philosophy and inspiration comes from respecting the past, searching for those small intricacies within nature, and highlighting landscapes, flowers, and aromas, all of which have the power to galvanize and convey language.
Chef Contreras first met Dominique Crenn after persistently calling and emailing in order to snag a spot in her kitchen at Abode. As part of the opening team, Juan quickly ascended to Sous Chef, where he nurtured his appreciation for modern cooking and pastry. When Chef Crenn was presented an opportunity to move to San Francisco for the head Chef position at Luce in the Intercontinental Hotel, Chef Contreras went with her; as Executive Sous Chef at Luce, he played a large role in menu development and execution. Luce garnered a Michelin star in its first year of operation under the dynamic duo of Chef Crenn and Chef Contreras.
After 2 years at Luce, Chef Contreras decided to reboot for inspiration and completed stints at Alinea, De Librije and Oud Sluis—all three Michelin star awardees. Chef Contreras then returned to San Francisco and opened Atelier Crenn with Chef Crenn in 2011. The two have since received a myriad of culinary accolades. In 2019 and 2020, Chef Contreras was a finalist nominated for a James Beard Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef.