THE PERFECTIONIST: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine

Rudolph Chelminski, Author . Gotham $27.50 (368p) ISBN 978-1-59240-107-9

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 pièce de résistance 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)

Reviewed on: 03/28/2005
Release date: 06/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 978-1-101-21668-2
Paperback - 354 pages - 978-1-59240-204-5
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