By 1982, he had taken over La Côte d'Or in the town of Saulieu and earned a coveted three-star Michelin rating.
But for a perfectionist, life is never perfect. Loiseau's mania turned him into a rule-bound martinet (even though the rules were his own). And if "le style Loiseau" was delectable, it was also inflexible. When change, in the form of Asian fusion cuisine, began to sweep the kitchens of France in the late '90s, Loiseau resisted, with fatal consequences. The death in the book's subtitle came on February 24, 2003, when Loiseau—his business crippled by reduced travel after 9/11, his confidence shaken by a rumor that La Côte d'Or might lose its third star (a rumor he may inadvertently have started himself), his depression deepened by exhaustion—killed himself with a shotgun. Chelminski sees his subject as a tragic hero brought low by gimmicky chefs catering to crass appetites.
The Perfectionist should be read by anyone who cares deeply about the art of cooking and the passions that simmer behind closed kitchen doors. And once Chelminski stops selling the importance of French cuisine, even readers unconcerned about butter's role in 21st-century Paris will find the book compelling.
Fergus M. Bordewich
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