The Perfectionist

A moving tribute to the Michelin starred Chef, Bernard Loiseau, who committed suicide in February 2003. Shock waves vibrated throughout France. Why would their world famous chef have carried out such an act? It was the eve of the 2004 publication of the Michelin Hotel-Restaurant guide with Bernard Loiseau at the top of his profession in an exclusive 'club' of only 25 members who held the coveted 3 Star honor.


Collaborating with Dominique Loiseau and a hoard of famous names who both knew and worked with Bernard, Rudolph Chelminski presents a frank yet sensitive story of a great man who strived for creative perfection, which by its very nature was impossible to achieve; continually seeking approval from those closest to him, those in the gastronomic industry, those in the media and that all important Bible - the Michelin guide and its inspectors.


Chelminski traces Loiseau's childhood and career, setting the French gastronomic scene from the early 1970's onwards intertwining with the rise of the Michelin Tyre Company and highlighting the evolution of its famous red guides and their impact on those who they touched.


Raised in a modest family of the 1950's in Clermont-Ferrand, which incidentally, is the home of Michelin Tyres, Bernard Loiseau was not a natural academic. His early work years were not exactly an indication of the magnitude of his future success, yet his lifelong ambition was to hold the status of being a Three Michelin Starred Chef. In earlier times some were surprised by this continual assertion, though later he motivated his loyal staff with these words, "daily work becomes a vocation to anyone fortunate enough to work alongisde me".


The turning point in this dream happened when Loiseau arrived in Paris and began work for the ex-Robot Coupe salesman turned restaurateur, Claude Verger. They were a successful team, Verger happily allowing Bernard to flourish and develop his own and unique style of cooking - a right of passage for every great chef. Time passes with Verger eventually purchasing the Cote d'Or hotel and restaurant in Saulieu, Burgundy. It is here that Bernard Loiseau held the reigns to a business that he himself was destined to later own.


Bursting from the pages of The Perfectionist, read the fascinating story of the rise of the Cote d'Or, some aspects happy and others tearfully sad but, {quotes} what fascinated me most was the extent to which the collective media of written and verbal words are able to build and destroy, often with intention and sometimes by chance{quotes}. Many could recognise this and step away, but sadly this was not the case for Loiseau.


3 Michelin stars awarded and, if we are to believe a conversation Bernard Loiseau had at Michelin's headquarters in Paris, there to stay for the immediate future, but Bernard became obsessed by 'what if's'. A new era of food and cooking was emerging, France and her gastrominy no longer at the epicentre and the press reigned high. Perhaps this great chef felt unable to compete, and saw inevitable toppling from his coveted 3 Star position, his life-long ambition. Whatever the reasons and however real or exaggerated, he was unable to cope so grasped fate in his own bare hands, at the barrel of a gun.........


It is our loss to lose an artist of this magnitude, a man who never became larger than his own success.

Today, with Dominique Loiseau as president, Loiseau holdings continue with the Relais Bernard Loiseau, formally the Cote d’Or, in Saulieu, Loiseau des Vignes in Beaune, Tante Louise and Tante Marguerite in Paris.

Published by Penguin Books, this is a must-read for anyone who cooks or has even just set foot in a kitchen, however grand or small.