Enthralling plunge into the world of the late Bernard Loiseau: celebrity chef, P.R. genius, and manic-depressive.
When Loiseau killed himself, all of France was stunned. A three-star chef with a loving family and good press doesn’t make for the most obvious candidate for suicide. Chelminski, a veteran journalist and long-time friend, takes a fly-on-the-wall position to track the career of a scrappy kid who made it to the culinary stratosphere and abruptly plunged back to earth. Loiseau was the son of a traveling salesman who, purely through a random personal connection, got him an apprenticeship at Les Frères Troisgros, a stellar eatery that would soon receive its third Michelin star. From here the intensely ambitious and big-talking Bernard soon made a great leap to running some very popular restaurants in Paris. Then he made a strange move: he relocated to the provincial backwater of Saulieu with the intention of establishing a three-star restaurant in a rundown local hotel. Amazingly, he did it. Through force of will, gastronomic inventiveness and an exquisitely sensitive palate, Bernard made Saulieu, in Michelin’s parlance, a destination worthy of a special journey. From there, however, his world began to spin out of control, as he took on massive debt to finance expansion, endorsed supermarket products and ran an exhausting publicity machine. It all worked while his energy was up, but sometimes he was way, way down, most notably on a disastrous trip to Japan in 1992 and again in 2002, before he took his own life. Chelminski excels at creating Loiseau’s milieu: the colorful history and inner workings of that bastion of secrecy, the Guide Michelin; the frantic pace of a three-star chef who must keep the machine oiled, running and financed; the whims of fickle French gastronomes.
Intensely involving: a character study of a gifted, driven man and the world that created him.