Maria Bello and Dominique Crenn Celebrate Their Union in Mexico

May 25, 2024
Dining & Wine
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Dominique Isabel Pascale Crenn receives countless DMs on Instagram from people trying to get a table at her San Francisco restaurant, Atelier Crenn. She doesn’t usually respond.

But when Maria Elaina Bello sent her a DM in April 2018, the message resonated with her.

Lorraine Silvera, a friend of Ms. Bello’s and a fellow food lover, had seen Ms. Crenn on the Netflix documentary series “Chef’s Table.” Ms. Silvera and Ms. Bello were flying to San Francisco from Los Angeles for dinner at Atelier Crenn, but reservations were fully booked.

Ms. Bello, 57, sent a message to Ms. Crenn, 59, on Instagram: “My friend Lolo who started the first Italian restaurant in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, is coming to visit next week and wants nothing more than to eat your divine food. We will fly from L.A. Thursday if it’s possible to get into the restaurant.”

As it happened, Ms. Crenn had been to Haiti the year before with her friend Michelle Jean, who is Haitian, to help farmers who had been affected by Hurricane Matthew, which devastated the country in October 2016. Their efforts to rebuild infrastructure included planting trees for coffee and cacao farmers. Ms. Crenn felt compelled to respond to Ms. Bello, and she made space at the restaurant for her and her friend.

“It was the most amazing food I ever had,” Ms. Bello said. “She was so kind, we knew that night we’d be friends forever. But I wasn’t in a dating place. She wasn’t in a dating place.”

Ms. Crenn said she immediately felt safe around Ms. Bello, and that Ms. Bello gave her a hug that made her feel at peace. “Especially in my industry sometimes, so many people come to the restaurant and everybody wants to be your friend,” Ms. Crenn said.

Ms. Crenn, who was born in Versailles, France, is a celebrated chef and the first woman in the United States to receive three stars from the Michelin Guide, its highest rating, for Atelier Crenn.

Ms. Bello is not unfamiliar with celebrity culture. She is an actress who most recently appeared on the Netflix series “Beef,” for which she received an Emmy nomination for best supporting actress in a limited series. Ms. Bello won the 2024 Critics Choice Award for the role.

After they met, for two nights in a row, Ms. Bello was featured in Ms. Crenn’s dreams as her “protector” from people who were trying to take advantage of her. “I was like, ‘Whoa, what’s happening?’” Ms. Crenn said.

They kept in touch and messaged here and there. In October 2018, six months after their first visit, Ms. Bello returned to the restaurant with the same friend, Ms. Silvera. On a whim, they joined Ms. Crenn to travel to a food and wine festival in Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico, the next day.

“It was just a spur of the moment adventure, and it was really fun,” Ms. Bello said. During the trip, they cooked, picked flowers, set tables and ate together.

“We really admired each other,” Ms. Crenn said. They realized that their friendship could be something more in March 2019, when Ms. Crenn visited Los Angeles for a photo shoot. They both agreed they had feelings for each other, but that they would take the time to figure out what a relationship “would look like,” Ms. Bello said.

Ms. Crenn traveled to New York shortly afterward to celebrate her birthday on April 7. The day before, when she stepped out of the shower, she found a lump on her breast.

“At that moment, I was just like, ‘It’s not going to be good,’” Ms. Crenn said. “I felt it.”

After her birthday, she visited her doctor, who, upon performing a biopsy, told her she had the “c word,” Ms. Crenn said — that it was triple-negative breast cancer at stage 2, almost at stage 3.

She and Ms. Bello met in San Francisco, and she told her about the cancer. “Falling in love with someone — you don’t want to put that on them,” Ms. Crenn said.

But Ms. Bello’s response was: “Let’s do cancer.” It was her way of making the relationship official.

“It was sort of that simple,” Ms. Bello said. “My mother had cancer since I was a kid. I had a job where I could travel and I felt like I’m a caretaker in a lot of ways. And I just felt like this was too special to walk away from.”

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Ms. Bello flew back and forth between San Francisco and Los Angeles, where she was filming at the time for a main role on the TV drama “NCIS,” to take care of Ms. Crenn.

“This woman danced through cancer,” Ms. Bello said. “It’s like she hears music in her brain all of the time and can’t help moving with joy.”

“I think I cried more through it than she did,” Ms. Bello added. “And that was for about nine months — nine really painful months.” Those nine months involved 16 sessions of chemotherapy, eight blood transfusions and a double mastectomy.

“I always say our honeymoon phase was cancer,” Ms. Bello said. “I feel like I kept her up in so many ways. Falling in love is a really exciting thing, and it’s good for your body and your soul.”

At the end of Ms. Crenn’s last treatment, she was feeling particularly ill. She called Ms. Bello, who flew to San Francisco the next morning.

“Somehow I woke up and I thought that was the end for me because I saw death,” Ms. Crenn said. “It was very weird. I kind of passed out, and she walked in.”

Ms. Bello took her to the hospital and slept next to her that night in a bed by the window. They were still able to joke and laugh, despite the difficulty of the situation.

“It was all about positivity and love,” Ms. Crenn said.

In December 2019, Ms. Bello purchased a home in Los Angeles. The two also rent an apartment together in Île Saint-Louis, Paris. Ms. Crenn, who has two other restaurants and bars in San Francisco — Bar Crenn and Petit Crenn — has a home in Sausalito, just north of the city. The couple live between those three homes.

Ms. Bello grew up in Norristown, Pa., and graduated from Villanova University with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She has one son, Jackson, who is 23, from a previous relationship.

Ms. Crenn graduated from Cours Charlemagne in Paris with a bachelor’s degree in economics. She has 10-year-old twin daughters, Charlotte and Olivia.

In December 2019, the couple went to Pavillon Ledoyen, a three-Michelin-starred restaurant by Yannick Alléno in Paris. Mr. Alléno, a friend of Ms. Crenn’s, arranged a private room for the couple. They had dinner, and Ms. Crenn proposed. Then Ms. Bello proposed.

“It was magical,” Ms. Bello said. “We danced in this little room, and then we spent that week just walking around Paris. It was cold and snowy a little bit. It was just a romantic time.”

That February, they went out together as a couple for the first time at the annual Vanity Fair Oscars Party. “We said, let’s go out and be social and be seen,” Ms. Bello said.

And then the pandemic struck, but they kept moving forward. They had a group of friends they spent time with in Los Angeles. They cooked a lot, drove back and forth from San Francisco to Los Angeles and made videos singing to songs by Whitney Houston, Ms. Crenn’s favorite artist.

The couple were legally wed in the backyard of their Los Angeles home on April 7. Seano McFarland, a close friend who was previously ordained by the Universal Life Church, officiated. The women’s three children were the only guests present.

On May 12 — Mother’s Day — they had their wedding celebration in front of 140 guests at Montage Los Cabos in Baja California, Mexico.

Their children played an integral role in the celebration. Ms. Bello’s son walked her down the aisle to “Time Flies” by Burna Boy, her favorite artist. Ms. Crenn’s daughters and Peggy Keon, the mother of her former partner, walked down the aisle with her to the song “Kiss” by Prince. (“They said yes to Maria,” Ms. Crenn said. “They said, ‘Yeah, you can marry her.’ They’re obsessed with her.”)

During the celebration, the couple sat onstage with Mr. McFarland, who conducted an interview with them so the guests could learn their love story. The ceremony revolved around what they call “the 3 C’s”: their journey through cancer, Covid, and, now, commitment.

After the ceremony, the couple left the stage dancing to the song “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston with the crowd cheering.

“Listen, I’ve been in so many relationships in my life with men and women — very passionate affairs,” Ms. Bello said. “I just never thought I’d get married. When I met Dom and started to fall in love with her, I realized that it was so much deeper and I was definitely in a place in my life being in the second half of life, being older. It was a very mature love in a lot of ways, but we also played a lot together.”

“How cool is that? To know that until the end,” Ms. Crenn added, “I can hold somebody else’s hand and they can smile at me, and they got me.”


When May 12, 2024

Where Montage Los Cabos, Mexico

A Culinary Experience The wedding fittingly treated guests to a top-notch food experience. Guests were greeted with a seafood bar serving tuna tostadas and oysters, along with passed hors d’oeuvres. After the ceremony, they indulged in a family-style dinner with a menu curated by the chef Xavier Salomon.

Dior and Denim The couple were dressed by Dior for their ceremony looks: Ms. Bello in a fuchsia blouse and skirt and Ms. Crenn in a custom white vest and pants. During the dinner, they changed into jeans — partway through dancing, and after enough tequila, Ms. Crenn said, jokingly.

A Tribute to the Mothers Ms. Bello’s son delivered an emotional speech about the significance of the wedding taking place on Mother’s Day. He paid homage to his grandmother, Kathleen Bello, who was in attendance. He shouted out his stepmother, Jill Cooper, who is married to his father and Ms. Bello’s former partner, Dan McDermott, who was also in attendance, and ended the speech pronouncing his new, fourth mother, Ms. Crenn. He celebrated his “modern family” — a reference to Ms. Bello’s Modern Love piece in 2013 titled “Coming Out as a Modern Family.”

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