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The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine

by

The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine Cover

 

Staff Pick

In 2003 Bernard Loiseau's suicide made international headlines. The celebrated French chef's restaurant was rumored to potentially lose a coveted Michelin star, and the Gault Millau guidebook had recently lowered its rating. In a compelling look at the history of modern French cuisine, the development of Loiseau's career — and the surmounting demands upon this overachiever who took a former distinguished restaurant stripped of its three stars back to eminence — Chelminski dishes up a compelling portrait of an adored chef whose ebullience and passion were overcome by the stresses and high standards of the exceedingly competitive culinary industry.
Recommended by Michal D., Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

An unforgettable portrait of France?s legendary chef, and the sophisticated, unforgiving world of French gastronomy

Bernard Loiseau was one of only twenty-five 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. Despite such triumphs, he shocked the culinary world by taking his own life in February 2003. The GaultMillau guidebook had recently dropped its ratings of Loiseau?s restaurant, and rumors swirled that he was on the verge of losing a Michelin star (a prediction that proved to be inaccurate).

Journalist Rudolph Chelminski, who befriended Loiseau three decades ago and followed his rise to the pinnacle of French restaurateurs, now gives us a rare tour of this hallowed culinary realm. The Perfectionist is the story of a daydreaming teenager who worked his way up from complete obscurity to owning three famous restaurants in Paris and rebuilding La Côte d?Or, transforming a century-old inn and restaurant that had lost all of its Michelin stars into a luxurious destination restaurant and hotel. He started a line of culinary products with his name on them, appeared regularly on television and in the press, and had a beautiful, intelligent wife and three young children he adored — Bernard Loiseau seemed to have it all.

An unvarnished glimpse inside an echelon filled with competition, culture wars, and impossibly high standards, The Perfectionist vividly depicts a man whose energy and enthusiasm won the hearts of staff and clientele, while self-doubt and cut-throat critics took their toll.

Review:

"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 pice de rsistance 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)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"A book as strong on 'who' cooks as "what" is cooking. Absolutely fascinating from its beginnings — to its tragic end." Anthony Bourdain, author of the New York Times bestseller Kitchen Confidential

Review:

"...a story of the universal quest for perfection and French gastronomy's battle to continue defining haute cuisine..."William Echikson, author of Burgundy Stars and Noble Rot: A Bordeaux Wine Revolution

Review:

"Chelminski is an excellent and absorbing writer who obviously understands the inner workings of the culinary world." Daniel Boulud, Chef/Owner DANIEL, Café Boulud and db bistro moderne

Review:

"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." William Grimes, the New York Times

Synopsis:

A riveting behind-the-scenes look at the mysterious world of three-star French haute cuisine is revealed through the biography of one of France's most celebrated chefs — Bernard Loiseau, who ended his own life on February 24, 2003, after one of his restaurant's ratings took a disappointing drop.

Synopsis:

An unforgettable portrait of Franc‛s legendary chef, and the sophisticated, unforgiving world of French gastronomy

Bernard Loiseau was one of only twenty-five French chefs to hold Europ‛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. Despite such triumphs, he shocked the culinary world by taking his own life in February 2003. The GaultMillau guidebook had recently dropped its ratings of Loisea‛s restaurant, and rumors swirled that he was on the verge of losing a Michelin star (a prediction that proved to be inaccurate).

Journalist Rudolph Chelminski, who befriended Loiseau three decades ago and followed his rise to the pinnacle of French restaurateurs, now gives us a rare tour of this hallowed culinary realm. The Perfectionist is the story of a daydreaming teenager who worked his way up from complete obscurity to owning three famous restaurants in Paris and rebuilding La Côte ‛Or, transforming a century-old inn and restaurant that had lost all of its Michelin stars into a luxurious destination restaurant and hotel. He started a line of culinary products with his name on them, appeared regularly on television and in the press, and had a beautiful, intelligent wife and three young children he adored—Bernard Loiseau seemed to have it all.

An unvarnished glimpse inside an echelon filled with competition, culture wars, and impossibly high standards, The Perfectionist vividly depicts a man whose energy and enthusiasm won the hearts of staff and clientele, while self-doubt and cut-throat critics took their toll.

Advance Praise for THE PERFECTIONIST

" Chelminski gets right to the heart of what it takes to get--and hold on to--three Michelin stars. The Perfectionist is a knowledgeable, wise, unsparing yet sympathetic portrait of a great chef at a crossroads in culinary history. Few other writers have taken us as deeply--or as unblinkingly--into the real business of haute cuisine. One of the finest and most incisive portraits of a chef ever written--and a sobering account of the real human costs of being the best. A book as strong on "who" cooks as "what" is cooking. Absolutely fascinating from its beginnings--to its tragic end."--Anthony Bourdain, author of the New York Times bestseller Kitchen Confidential

“Rudolph Chelminski is an excellent and absorbing writer who obviously understands the inner workings of the culinary world, as well as how chefs think. His empathy for the industry as a whole - and for Bernard Loiseau in particular - makes The Perfectionist a fascinating read. Bernar‛s death is a tragedy that I have struggled with; Mr. Chelminsk‛s book made me finally understand why it occurred”—Daniel Boulud, Chef/Owner DANIEL, author of Letters to a Young Chef and Daniel Boulu‛s Café Boulud Cookbook

"As someone who spent a year with Bernard Loiseau and wrote his own book about the remarkable chef, I read this account with great interest. It is a tour de force - a story of the universal quest for perfection and French gastronomy's battle to continue defining haute cuisine for the rest of the world."--William Echikson, author of Burgundy Stars and Noble Rot: A Bordeaux Wine Revolution

“This fascinating account about the top dogs on the French food scene is brilliant in its circumstantial detail. To gain recognition as one of the world's great chefs merely anticipates the unceasing challenge to stay out front as a successful restaurateur. The struggle was too much for the Cote d'Or super star, Bernard Loiseau. The tragedy plays out in Burgundy, France, but Rudy Chelminksi's gripping story serves as a global morality tale about the perils of going for broke in haute cuisine”--Anne Willan, founder Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne

“Rudolph Chelminski tells the sad story of Bernard Loiseau movingly and with deep affection. The Perfectionist is a poignant commentary on modern life and the seduction of stardom; at the same time Chelminski lays bare, with penetrating insight, a world of French haute cuisine that the public seldom sees--often nasty, occasionally glorious, and always of compelling interest”—Nancy Harmon Jenkins, author of The Essential Mediterranean

About the Author

Rudolph Chelminski has written articles for dozens of national magazines, ranging from People and Time to The Atlantic Monthly, and his prior books include The French at Table. He holds a degree from Harvard and has studied at the Institut d?Etudes Politiques. Raised in Connecticut, he began living in Europe more than thirty years ago, when LIFE magazine dispatched him to Paris.

Table of Contents

Contents

I. Luxe, Calme et Volupté 1

II. Clermont-Ferrand 25

III. Le Guide Michelin (and the others) 45

IV. Apprenticeship 73

V. The Great Adventure Begins: Paris with Pygmalion, 1972–1975 93

VI. Le‛s Do It: A Rocky Start in Saulieu, 1975–1976 115

VII. Building le Style Loiseau, 1977–1982 131

VIII. Bachelor Days in Saulieu, 1977–1982 147

IX. A Marriage, an Acquisition, and a Breakdown 171

X. Exit Chantal, Enter Dominique 203

XI. The Big Push 227

XII. The Loiseau Decade 253

XIII. Up, Down, and Up Again: Bernar‛s Bipolar World 269

XIV. Things Fall Apart 289

XV. Dénouement 313

XVI. The Third Life of La Côte ‛Or 331

Index 345

Product Details

ISBN:
9781592401079
Subtitle:
Life and Death in Haute Cuisine
Author:
Chelminski, Rudolph
Publisher:
Gotham
Subject:
Gastronomy
Subject:
Cooking
Subject:
Cooks
Subject:
Regional & Ethnic - French
Subject:
Adventure
Subject:
French
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Paperback / softback
Publication Date:
May 2005
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
from 8
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
9.50x6.34x1.34 in. 1.27 lbs.
Age Level:
from 14

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Related Subjects

Biography » Cooking
Biography » General
Cooking and Food » Food Writing » Gastronomic Literature

The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.50 In Stock
Product details 368 pages Gotham Books - English 9781592401079 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

In 2003 Bernard Loiseau's suicide made international headlines. The celebrated French chef's restaurant was rumored to potentially lose a coveted Michelin star, and the Gault Millau guidebook had recently lowered its rating. In a compelling look at the history of modern French cuisine, the development of Loiseau's career — and the surmounting demands upon this overachiever who took a former distinguished restaurant stripped of its three stars back to eminence — Chelminski dishes up a compelling portrait of an adored chef whose ebullience and passion were overcome by the stresses and high standards of the exceedingly competitive culinary industry.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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 pice de rsistance 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)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

"Review" by , "A book as strong on 'who' cooks as "what" is cooking. Absolutely fascinating from its beginnings — to its tragic end."
"Review" by , "...a story of the universal quest for perfection and French gastronomy's battle to continue defining haute cuisine..."
"Review" by , "Chelminski is an excellent and absorbing writer who obviously understands the inner workings of the culinary world."
"Review" by , "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."
"Synopsis" by , A riveting behind-the-scenes look at the mysterious world of three-star French haute cuisine is revealed through the biography of one of France's most celebrated chefs — Bernard Loiseau, who ended his own life on February 24, 2003, after one of his restaurant's ratings took a disappointing drop.
"Synopsis" by , An unforgettable portrait of Franc‛s legendary chef, and the sophisticated, unforgiving world of French gastronomy

Bernard Loiseau was one of only twenty-five French chefs to hold Europ‛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. Despite such triumphs, he shocked the culinary world by taking his own life in February 2003. The GaultMillau guidebook had recently dropped its ratings of Loisea‛s restaurant, and rumors swirled that he was on the verge of losing a Michelin star (a prediction that proved to be inaccurate).

Journalist Rudolph Chelminski, who befriended Loiseau three decades ago and followed his rise to the pinnacle of French restaurateurs, now gives us a rare tour of this hallowed culinary realm. The Perfectionist is the story of a daydreaming teenager who worked his way up from complete obscurity to owning three famous restaurants in Paris and rebuilding La Côte ‛Or, transforming a century-old inn and restaurant that had lost all of its Michelin stars into a luxurious destination restaurant and hotel. He started a line of culinary products with his name on them, appeared regularly on television and in the press, and had a beautiful, intelligent wife and three young children he adored—Bernard Loiseau seemed to have it all.

An unvarnished glimpse inside an echelon filled with competition, culture wars, and impossibly high standards, The Perfectionist vividly depicts a man whose energy and enthusiasm won the hearts of staff and clientele, while self-doubt and cut-throat critics took their toll.

Advance Praise for THE PERFECTIONIST

" Chelminski gets right to the heart of what it takes to get--and hold on to--three Michelin stars. The Perfectionist is a knowledgeable, wise, unsparing yet sympathetic portrait of a great chef at a crossroads in culinary history. Few other writers have taken us as deeply--or as unblinkingly--into the real business of haute cuisine. One of the finest and most incisive portraits of a chef ever written--and a sobering account of the real human costs of being the best. A book as strong on "who" cooks as "what" is cooking. Absolutely fascinating from its beginnings--to its tragic end."--Anthony Bourdain, author of the New York Times bestseller Kitchen Confidential

“Rudolph Chelminski is an excellent and absorbing writer who obviously understands the inner workings of the culinary world, as well as how chefs think. His empathy for the industry as a whole - and for Bernard Loiseau in particular - makes The Perfectionist a fascinating read. Bernar‛s death is a tragedy that I have struggled with; Mr. Chelminsk‛s book made me finally understand why it occurred”—Daniel Boulud, Chef/Owner DANIEL, author of Letters to a Young Chef and Daniel Boulu‛s Café Boulud Cookbook

"As someone who spent a year with Bernard Loiseau and wrote his own book about the remarkable chef, I read this account with great interest. It is a tour de force - a story of the universal quest for perfection and French gastronomy's battle to continue defining haute cuisine for the rest of the world."--William Echikson, author of Burgundy Stars and Noble Rot: A Bordeaux Wine Revolution

“This fascinating account about the top dogs on the French food scene is brilliant in its circumstantial detail. To gain recognition as one of the world's great chefs merely anticipates the unceasing challenge to stay out front as a successful restaurateur. The struggle was too much for the Cote d'Or super star, Bernard Loiseau. The tragedy plays out in Burgundy, France, but Rudy Chelminksi's gripping story serves as a global morality tale about the perils of going for broke in haute cuisine”--Anne Willan, founder Ecole de Cuisine La Varenne

“Rudolph Chelminski tells the sad story of Bernard Loiseau movingly and with deep affection. The Perfectionist is a poignant commentary on modern life and the seduction of stardom; at the same time Chelminski lays bare, with penetrating insight, a world of French haute cuisine that the public seldom sees--often nasty, occasionally glorious, and always of compelling interest”—Nancy Harmon Jenkins, author of The Essential Mediterranean

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