Cow Hollow’s high-end wine bar Bar Crenn, like sister restaurant Atelier Crenn, stopped serving meat a few years back, but started again on Saturday — though it was lab-grown chicken made from animal cells, and it’s initially only going to be served once a month.
It was a major foodie and sustainability milestone that did not get much attention in late June when the U.S. Department of Agriculture gave its first-ever approvals to two companies to sell lab-grown meat in the United States. The meat does not actually come from a live animal, it is cell-based proteins developed from animal cells, produced in a lab. This technology could be an absolute game-changer in reducing the water waste, greenhouse gas emissions, and general animal cruelty associated with factory farming.
One of the companies, Berkeley-based Upside Foods, promoted their historic federal regulatory approval with some kind of contest offering “A trip to San Francisco” and a meal “hosted by Chef Crenn” to a few lucky winners who wanted to be the first to try their humane chicken produced from cultivated cells.
UPSIDE Foods just secured full regulatory clearance to produce and sell our cell-cultivated chicken in the U.S., and to celebrate, we’re inviting you to JOIN US for the meal of a lifetime. For details, head to our Instagram page! pic.twitter.com/RBM9JevIQB— UPSIDE Foods (@UPSIDEfoods) June 21, 2023
Wait, is “Chef Crenn” SF’s own renowned celebrity chef Dominique Crenn? CNN confirms that yes it is, and the dinner happened this past Saturday at Cow Hollow’s Bar Crenn. Like all of Crenn’s restaurants, Bar Crenn has not served meat for years, with Crenn saying in 2019, “Meat is insanely complicated — both within the food system and the environment as a whole — and, honestly, it felt easier to just remove it from the menus all together."
But now that the chicken meat is not from an actual live chicken, Crenn is ready for a chicken in every pot.
"It's truly an honor to serve Upside's cultivated chicken at Bar Crenn and introduce cultivated meat to the U.S.," Crenn said in a press release. "It's the first time meat has made it back on my menu since 2018, because Upside Chicken is the first meat that I feel good about serving. From its exquisite flavor and texture to its aroma and the way it cooks, Upside Chicken is simply delicious and it represents a significant step towards a more sustainable and compassionate food system."
This 4th of July, join us as we toast to a historic moment in America: the first sale of Cultivated Meat! 🥂🍗✨— UPSIDE Foods (@UPSIDEfoods) July 4, 2023
On Saturday, UPSIDE Chicken became the first cultivated meat sold in the US, paving the way for the future of food. #UPSIDEFoods #CultivatedMeat #FoodRevolution pic.twitter.com/yPD2i0jB7T
We have some video of Saturday’s historic first meal, though this was obviously a somewhat scripted and made-for-TV production. (The diners utter such insightful phrases as “Wow,” “So good,” and “So delicious.”) Bar Crenn did not appear to promote the event on their social media, though Crenn’s personal Instagram did have a few posts about it. CNN reports that contest winners paid $1 for their winner-winner cultivated chicken dinner, likely to help Bar Crenn say they “sold” the first lab-grown meat meals at a U.S. restaurant.
You might look at this photo from the meal and say…. That doesn’t even look like chicken! But most of what you see above is garnish. The Robb Report explains that “the cultivated chicken is fried in a recado negro (Yucatan spice mixture) – infused tempura batter, then served alongside burnt chili aioli and edible flowers and greens from Crenn’s Bleu Belle Farm. It’s plated in a handmade black vessel decorated with Crenn’s logo and Mexican-inspired designs.”
But alas, Saturday’s event was a one-off. This cultivated chicken is not currently on the Bar Crenn menu. But CNN adds that “there will be monthly dinner services featuring the product starting later this year,” and “those who want to try it can sign up ahead of time on the Bar Crenn website.” That website does not show current offerings for the lab-grown chicken dinner experience, though it’s certainly with keeping an eye on.
Image: @UPSIDEfoods via Twitter