When Bernard Loiseau took his life in February 2003, he seemed near the pinnacle of his cooking career. He was one of only 25 French chefs to hold Europe's highest culinary award, three stars in the Michelin Red Guide, and only the second chef to be personally awarded the Legion of Honor by a head of state. But in the intensely competitive world of French restaurateurs, Loiseau was an embattled giant. The prestigious Gault-Millau guidebook had recently dropped its rating of his restaurants by two points, and rumors swirled that this cuisine style-setter was on the verge of losing a Michelin star. Journalist Rudolph Chelminski was Louiseau's friend for nearly 30 years. In The Perfectionist, he describes the rise and fall of the most famous chef in France.
… The Perfectionist is a good book: knowledgeable, revealing and informative. It brings back to life in very believable ways a man who much of the time was, as the cliché goes, larger than life. How much of a loss his suicide was to the larger world can only be guessed at, but to his family and friends it can only have been too large to bear.
The Washington Post
Mr. Chelminski, the author of The French at Table, knew Loiseau well. Better yet, he knows France well and the exalted role of fine dining in French culture. The Perfectionist tells, in rich detail, the story of Loiseau's rapid rise and desperate efforts to stay on top, but this cautionary tale is also a deeply informed guide to the last half century of French cuisine, a brilliant chapter whose ending is uncertain.
The New York Times
What could possibly possess a three-star French chef, a master of his difficult trade in a country that reveres cuisine, to commit suicide in 2003, just after wrapping up the daily lunch service? Readers discover the reasons in a book so knowledgeable and breezily entertaining that it's easy to forget, while chuckling or salivating, that it's also something of an elegy to Bernard Loiseau of La Cote d'Or. Chelminski has lived in Paris for more than 30 years as a journalist, covering gastronomy, among other things, and is on schmoozing (and freeloading) terms with almost every chef in France; he first met Loiseau in 1974 when the 23-year-old chef was already winning notice. A high school dropout, Loiseau was an extroverted workaholic, clubby in the kitchen though shy with women, and a bipolar personality, obsessed with winning three stars in the venerable Michelin Red Guide. How he did it is a fascinating, discursive story. Readers learn what life was like for an apprentice (under the Troisgros brothers) in the 1960s in a kitchen that sounds near-medieval, and for a hot young chef in a chic Paris bistro in the '70s. Along the way (with droll footnotes), we're treated to a history of modern French cuisine, a look at how the Michelin family reached its gatekeeping apotheosis, encounters with dozens of chefs and many morsels of gossip. The pi ce de r sistance is the account of how Loiseau took a former three-star restaurant, demoted to none, back to triumphant stellar glory-and then what happened. Agent, Matthew Guma at Inkwell Management. (May 23) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
In France, a country that practically defines itself by food, the Michelin Red Guide has the power to make or break a restaurant. So in February 2003 when Bernard Loiseau, chef and owner of La Cote d'Or, heard rumors that the prestigious guidebook was going to take away one of his coveted three stars, he committed suicide. The rumors proved to be untrue, but Loiseau's death prompted American journalist Chelminski (The French at Table) to examine what could push his friend to such a tragic ending. Tracing Loiseau's life from lowly kitchen apprentice to culinary star, Chelminski details the ambition, insecurity, and obsessive quest for perfectionism that propelled Loiseau to the top. In addition to Loiseau's own story, Chelminski offers readers a fascinating look at French cuisine from the 1930s to the present, as well as a brief history of the Michelin Red Guide and its competitors. Readers who reveled in the details offered by Leslie Brenner's American Appetite: The Coming of Age of a Cuisine or who loved Jacques Pepin's The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen will find Chelminski's expertly crafted story equally tempting. Recommended for academic libraries with culinary arts programs or public libraries where the cookery section is popular.-John Charles, Scottsdale P.L., AZ Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Enthralling plunge into the world of the late Bernard Loiseau: celebrity chef, P.R. genius, and manic-depressive. When Loiseau killed himself, all of France was stunned. A three-star chef with a loving family and good press doesn't make for the most obvious candidate for suicide. Chelminski, a veteran journalist and long-time friend, takes a fly-on-the-wall position to track the career of a scrappy kid who made it to the culinary stratosphere and abruptly plunged back to earth. Loiseau was the son of a traveling salesman who, purely through a random personal connection, got him an apprenticeship at Les Freres Troisgros, a stellar eatery that would soon receive its third Michelin star. From here the intensely ambitious and big-talking Bernard soon made a great leap to running some very popular restaurants in Paris. Then he made a strange move: he relocated to the provincial backwater of Saulieu with the intention of establishing a three-star restaurant in a rundown local hotel. Amazingly, he did it. Through force of will, gastronomic inventiveness and an exquisitely sensitive palate, Bernard made Saulieu, in Michelin's parlance, a destination worthy of a special journey. From there, however, his world began to spin out of control, as he took on massive debt to finance expansion, endorsed supermarket products and ran an exhausting publicity machine. It all worked while his energy was up, but sometimes he was way, way down, most notably on a disastrous trip to Japan in 1992 and again in 2002, before he took his own life. Chelminski excels at creating Loiseau's milieu: the colorful history and inner workings of that bastion of secrecy, the Guide Michelin; the frantic pace of a three-star chefwho must keep the machine oiled, running and financed; the whims of fickle French gastronomes. Intensely involving: a character study of a gifted, driven man and the world that created him.