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Paperback The Perfectionist : Life and Death in Haute Cuisine Book

ISBN: 1592402046

ISBN13: 9781592402045

The Perfectionist : Life and Death in Haute Cuisine

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Book Overview

A riveting behind-the-scenes look at the world of three-star French haute cuisineas revealed through the biography of one of France?s most celebrated chefs, The Perfectionistis an unforgettable portrait of Bernard Loiseau, and the sophisticated, unforgiving world of French gastronomy. 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...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

This is an important book for any artist/professional

I picked up this book after learning of the untimely passing of Bernard Loiseau. I previously read "Burgundy Stars" while I was in culinary school and considered that book to be an inspiration. I recommend reading "Burgundy Stars" before tackling this book to get a perspective of Mr. Loiseau during his rise to three stars that is not communicated in "The Perfectionist". The two work in tandem well. Of course, the suicide of Mr. Loiseau hangs over every passage of this book, so there is a heavy feel to the text from start to finish. With the outcome known, the writer and reader are never able to relax and lightly appreciate the rise of this remarkable man. At every point both the writer and reader are looking for signs of what would lead to the demise of both the man and his image. This is one of my problems with the book. There are few if any light moments to temper the emotion of the death that we all know is on the horizon. While the tone of the book may be dark, the story is amazing. I feel that anyone who works at high levels or overachieves can take something away from this book. Mr. Loiseau's mental problems are only one component of his personality. "The secret of success is consistency of purpose." No one ever embodied this quote more that Bernard Loiseau. Don't focus on his mental illness, focus on his passion for prefection. Another problem that I have with the book was that the author integrated himself into the text nicely with personal accounts of his relationship with the great chef, but I wanted more of this. I think that more personal reflections by the author would have endeared me to the story a bit more, but this is just a minor criticism. Overall, I highly recommend this book. I would give it 4.5 out of 5 if possible. If you are a chef, then this is a must-read. Remember, try to read "Burgundy Stars" first, it will make your experience with "The Perfectionist" complete.

The Flawed Perfectionist

Two recent books about megalomaniacs: genial, larger-than-life luminaries of the food and wine world, Robert Parker, the American wine critic, and Bernard Loiseau, the French chef. They both tell of youthful talent that became increasingly ambitious as it ripened. Parker, the most powerful individual in the wine industry, ultimately claimed virtual infallibility; Loiseau, anointed with three Michelin stars but beset with doubts, ultimately committed suicide. The Perfectionist is the saga of Bernard Loiseau, big, outwardly gregarious and confident, inwardly shy and insecure, whose traveling salesman father apprentices him, as a teenager, to the chef at his favorite restaurant. As it happens, while young Bernard is flailing away at his first kitchen tasks, the Michelin guide awards the restaurant three stars. Bernard, who's a competent though not exceptional cook, is awestruck: winning those three stars for himself become his life's obsession. Bernard is fortunate to find a patron who sets him up at a country inn, the famous Côte d'Or in Saulieu, a once-thriving market town in northern Burgundy now bypassed by the autoroute. No matter: Bernard settles in for the long haul. He assembles a talented team for his kitchen and dining room, he courts the Parisian press, he develops a network of local suppliers. He's unlucky in love (his first wife cheats on him with the maitre d'hôtel) but has a knack for the restaurant business (food journalists adore him); he wins back a Michelin star for venerable auberge, then two. Now, as Bernard puts it, the trouble with success in the restaurant world is, "C'est jamais gagné." The battle's never over. First you strive for ten or twenty years to reach the top. It's not like training for the Olympics, where a single perfect routine wins you the gold medal; you've got to score a ten every day, twice a day. But then, after you've won, you panic even more: now that you've been given those stars, what if they take them away? And poor Bernard, though happily married to his second wife, was bipolar. Mostly manic: that was the perfectionist his staff knew, the outgoing giant the adored by the media and the public. (He was ebulliant, too, when I met him in Saulieu in the fall of 1998, eager to discuss his plans for a new bistro in Paris--eventually three--and an unprecendented plan to raise money by being listed on the Paris stock exchange.) Then third Michelin star came along, and it seemed Bernard could do no wrong. But the tentacles of darkness were stronger than anyone knew. A slight slip in one of the guidebooks, a rumor that his third Michelin star was in jeopardy, a change in the culinary fashion dictated by Paris critics: it all took its toll on Bernard. His manic-depressive disorder--easy to diagnose in retrospect--was never treated. The right medications, it's assumed, could have saved him from his private demons. Instead he succumbed. Rudolph Chelminsky, a keenly observant foreign correspondent, had a

Flames to Fire to Ashes

This gargantuan tale succeeds on many levels. Rudolph Chelminski details the evolution of French haute cuisine throughout the twentieth century. As noted by another reviewer, the author fails to cite sources, surprisingly, because this book could easily be used as a text in any serious culinary school which required knowledge of the great Fench chefs. Of course one of the book's great strengths is Chelminski's personal relationship and friendship with Bernard Loiseau, the doomed perfectionist. This original source information is by turns fascinating, exhilarating, poignant, and sad. Chelminski does draw a clear portrait of the exacting business world of the three star restaurants in France, and the men who run them. Another mesmerizing thread running throughout is the history of the Michelin tire company, its tourism guides, and the absolute hold that the restaurant guide has over France. The club of three star chefs is small, exclusively male (the widow of one chef is permitted because she acts as a supervisor over the lower chefs but maintains her deceased husband's standards), and members appear to have a terrifying tendency to die young of stress related diseases. Their business is ruthless, subject to the vagaries of whim, fad, trends, American freedom fries, and worst of all, the 30% loss of business that will immediately follow the loss of a Michelin star. The chefs, therefore, have tricks to spot a Michelin eater. He will be alone. His car will have Michelin tires. He will spend the night. Or not. He will eat lunch. Or dinner. The restaurants in the provinces have more time to ruminate because they are slow in the winter. The chef will sit in the window and wait, and think of other spotting tricks. The Michelin eater will wear a suit. Or a tie. Or not. A disaffected Michelin employee writes an expose claiming that there were only 4 eater/reviewers for the entire country. The chefs are aghast. Michelin responds by hiring 11. They publish a new book every year, and fortunes and lives rest on the outcome. This appears miserly and unfair, but c'est la vie. Bernard Loiseau is the subject of the book, its star, its puzzle and its tragedy. While an apprentice, he tips a pan into the flames and is scolded harshly. This is the most dramatic episode of an altogether unpromising beginning. He spends the rest of his life trying to show up the people who humilated and mocked him. We later learn that Bernard has bipolar disorder, and things take a more tragic color. The mocking, which a stronger or sterner individual could shrug off or forget, irreparably scarred Bernard. He threw himself into his first job, insanely dedicated to the idea of attaining Michelin recognition. He's crushed with each peer that gets it, and delighted when he finally does. Chelminski shows someone who is not so much jealous as insecure and fragile, completely lacking in self-worth. Bernard appears to love everyone but himself. All

Rudolph Chemelski's gastronomic tour de force

Rudolph Chelminski's tale of French haute cuisine chef Bernard Loiseau and his tragically flawed quest and attainment of Michelin's elusive third star reads, to paraphrase a pithy comment made by one of Chelmeski's sources, like "The Flight of Icarus." Loiseau flew a little too close to the sun and his wings melted. At the end of the tale, you heart goes out to his widow Dominique and her three now-fatherless children. I was fascinated throughout this enjoyable read at the level at which Mr. Chemelski, the Connecticut born and bred author, has steeped himself in the culture of French gastronomy. We often overuse the term "tour de force" when talking about about an impressive display of talent, but it really fits here. Chelemski seems like he was born in the kitchen of a three-star Paris eatery. His comprehensive knowledge of all aspects of the French dining scene and its place in the world will take your breath away. That I should have mastery of a subject with such command and panache!

Important Journalistic tale of Loiseau and French cuisine

`The Perfectionist' by American journalist Rudolph Chelminski tells of the career of leading French chef, Bernard Loiseau from his apprenticeship with the Troisgros brothers to his recent suicide in 2003 upon seeing some negative press about the quality of his cuisine at his Michelin rated three star restaurant. The book gives far more than the story of one chef. In many ways, it is one of the very best presentations of one aspect of world cuisine. As a description of the realities of food business, it ranks with Michael Ruhlman's two books, `The Soul of a Chef' and `The Making of a Chef' and with Anthony Bourdain's `Kitchen Confidential' with its insights into the culinary life. The elements of this story follow. Loiseau, a lightly educated and seemingly unteachable young boy is apprenticed with the very famous chefs Jean and Pierre Troisgros, whose restaurant in Roanne, along with Paul Bocuse outside of Lyon, were the two leading centers for the development of `nouvelle cuisine'. Loiseau spends three years at `Les Frere Troisgros', earning the certificate showing he has successfully completed his culinary apprenticeship. The next step on the ladder of culinary advancement was to be hired as a `commis' or assistant, typically starting as a specialist at one of the main stations in the French professional kitchen. Bernard takes such a position with culinary businessman Claude Verger who takes over a restaurant in Paris. After a few years of success in Paris, Loiseau moves as sous-chef to a venerable but run down restaurant-hotel in Saulieu, a small town in Burgundy, several miles from the new highway from Paris to the Mediterranean coast. Even this early in his career, Loiseau has the ambition to earn the coveted Michelin three star rating which marks his restaurant as one of the very few (counted in the low twenties) best in France. After five years as Verger's resident chef at this `Cote d'Or', Loiseau buys the restaurant from Verger and embarks on a mission to enhance the physical hotel and restaurant and the restaurant's cuisine to achieve the coveted Michelin three stars. The big problem is that, without the benefit of a professional clinical diagnosis, it is fairly clear that Bernard Loiseau suffered from bipolar disorder. At one point, he was even prescribed Prozac which helped, but which so deadened his drive that he weaned himself from the drug as soon as he felt he no longer needed it. Loiseau gets his three stars in the 1991 edition of the Michelin guide that he retains until his suicide in 2003. One constant theme in this story from the point at which Loiseau take over as owner of `Cote d'Or' is that much of Loiseau's success is due to his Herculean efforts at public relations. This was done with all the techniques so well known to American foodies. Just replace the name of Bernard Loiseau with Emeril Lagasse and you get a good sense of the efforts Loiseau made to keep the name of his restaurant in the public eye. Fortunately, Loise
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