Monday, November 26, 2007

Book Report - The Perfectionist

Mention the name Bernard Loiseau to most and the word suicide will probably be one of the first things that comes to mind. While the larger than life, pendulum of a man's suicide did stop the culinary world (and the non-culinary world) in its tracks in 2003, Rudolph Chelminski's 2005 release, The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine, focuses primarily on the great life of Chef Loiseau, balancing it with a haunting foreshadowing throughout the prose that death was never too far off.

Loiseau's is a life that is truly dedicated to his craft, while sadly neglecting his life. In his obsession to become the best he finds his strength - the strength to eventually get him his third Michelin star, and his weakness - a maddening complex that required constant praise.

The book as a whole is incredibly well written. Chelminski wants you to understand what drove Loiseau, not only to become one of the best chefs in the world, but to end it all so unexpectedly. Beyond this, I must say I learned quite a lot about the French haute cuisine culture, and just how important food is there.

The book isn't perfect though. Chelminski often acts as a cheerleader for French cooking, to the point where you'd think that the French invented food, and without the French we'd all be grazing in our front lawns and eating whatever we could bludgeon to death (probably raw).

At first I also believed that Chelminski overstated the importance of the Michelin Guide. Yet, after finishing the book, no matter how (un)important Michelin may be to me, or anyone else, it was everything to Loiseau.

There's a lot to take away from this book, and from the life of Loiseau - from his dedication to his art, to the dangers of undiagnosed mental disorders, BL has much to teach us. Thankfully, after reading this book, I'll remember him more for his life than his death.

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