Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Perfectionist” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  597 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
An unforgettable portrait of France's legendary chef, and the sophisticated, unforgiving world of French gastronomy

Bernard Loiseau was one of only twenty-five French chefs to hold Europe's highest culinary award, three stars in the Michelin Red Guide, and only the second chef to be personally awarded the Legion of Honor by a head of state. Despite such triumphs, he shock

Published (first published January 27th 2005)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Perfectionist, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Perfectionist

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jan 07, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: spaniels
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Michelin Stars: The Madness of Perfection

I've become increasingly interested in high-end cooking shows and what goes on in fine restaurants. Not because I want to learn how to cook elegantly (girl, please) or because I intend to start frequenting 3-Michelin starred establishments (can't afford it). I watch a lot of cookery videos on the Youtube, and one of them, Michelin Stars: The Madness of Perfection, probably produced by the BBC, was about the star system and the crazy desire and pressure to get and keep stars. The video mentioned
Mar 21, 2017 Drew rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is the biography of world-renowned French chef Bernard Loiseau, and the events that led up to his tragic suicide in 2003. (Don't worry, that wasn't a spoiler. The first line of the book tells you that.) While I was interested in the contents of this book and learning about Loiseau's life, the atrocious writing style made this book unnecessarily slow and hard to read.

Chelminski tries to emulate Shakespeare, but does it poorly. Instead of simply giving us the story and the facts surround
Nov 09, 2009 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2006
The Perfectionist is by Rudolph Chelminski, an American journalist who has long lived in France, and tells the story of Bernard Loiseau, the three-star chef who committed suicide in 2003.

What the book is really about, though, is the Michelin guide and the world of French restaurants and chefs. It goes back decades to tell about the growth of roadside restaurants in the countryside, fostered by the automobile, and the Michelin guide's roots as handbook for travelers. It discusses the rise of the
John McNeilly
If you’ve perused my “books to read” section, you’ll immediately notice I'm a foodie. Lately I've been gobbling up any and all books about chefs and cooking (with Anthony Bourdain emerging as my favorite – believe it or not, the guy writes really well and he's funny as hell). This book chronicles the life of one of France’s most famous and decorated chefs who dreamed since childhood of creating and owning a 3-star Michelin guide restaurant – the very pinnacle of success in France, who, as well a ...more
Dec 16, 2007 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: microhistory fans, food writing fans
This book tracks the 20th century development of haute cuisine in France through the life of Bernard Loiseau. It follows Loiseau from his unimpressive boyhood to his adult life as a celebrity chef all underlined by the same passion:
a top rating of three stars from the Michelin guide.

The author backtracks the reader through the progression of how Michelin, a tire company, came to be able to engineer the rise and fall of French chefs with their travel guide. He gives examples of the enormous perso
Stephanie W
There are a few key personal characteristics needed when even beginning to read Chelminski's book.

1. Have a basic appreciation or knowledge of french gastronomy (including flavors, techniques and evolution from haute cuisine for Escoffier's accessible "ready to wear" foods)
2. Know a little bit of french language (some things aren't translated)
3. Have some knowledge of history (including but not limited to 19th century european or WWII)
4. Have an all too dry wit (some people will often consider y
Nov 21, 2013 Lynne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
LOVED this book. It was well researched and although the basis is the life and death of Bernard Loiseau - it really is about French cuisine. The history of the Michelin stars, the history of classical French cooking and the masters. It follows Loiseau's path to greatness and then his self-destructive fall.

I didn't give it 5 stars simply because it did repeat itself at times ... and some of the times it felt like Chelminski was name dropping Chef's names - but otherwise, it was great. A highly d
Dec 22, 2012 Melita rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I knew nothing about the French cooking establishment, so it was interesting to read about the history of it. However, Chelminski was big on the in depth descriptions of food preparation that would go on for paragraphs, and that got to be a bit boring after a while. It was a struggle to finish, because the wordiness really detracted from the story line.
I think if you were really interested in cooking and cookery this book would be right up your alley. Otherwise, it's interesting but too dry for
coccinella felice
Mi tocca andare controcorrente. In mezzo a tanto entusiasmo, devo ammetterlo: è un po’ come con Philomena. Una storia da raccontare, niente da dire, ma perché così? E’ indubbiamente un libro molto interessante, non solo sulla storia del famosissimo chef Bernard Loiseau e sulla sua straordinaria personalità, ma anche sulla storia della cucina francese, della guida Michelin, della sua nascita e dei suoi retroscena. Se solo tutto questo fosse stato più romanzato, meno da “Manuale di storia della cu ...more
Jun 09, 2012 Alicia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel-france
I realized recently that I'm swiftly heading towards the day when I'll read more non-fiction than fiction (this assumes that we consider memoirs non-fiction). It's a few years off, but coming. The Perfectionist is a prime example of what's pulling me over - carefully researched, packed with interesting information, beautifully written, and "worthwhile" - you feel like you learned something by reading it. It's the story of Bernard Loiseau, 3 star chef, and the Michelin rating system. If you like ...more
Sean Keenan
Dec 18, 2016 Sean Keenan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My mom gave me this book. I really enjoyed it. I think it gives the reader a good idea of the Chef's dilemma, the unobtainable ideal of perfection. I think it also teaches us about the detriment of always striving to please others. In the background of all that there is a great respect for the tradition of French cooking and I absolutely love that. If you never had a desire to dine in France before this book, soon after you will.
May 25, 2008 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quick-reading memoir, of sorts, from a journalist who'd spent a good deal of time in and around Chez Loiseau. A not-exacting but still marvelous story of 3-star chefdom (3 being the summit for restaurants; Michelin rates hotels up to 5 stars), the role of the media and le Guide rouge, and what it takes to make it in cooking - especially when you're as determined as Bernard Loiseau. My only regret is that I never ate his food ...
Jul 13, 2012 Paola rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The biography of the tragic Chef Bernard Loiseau - an intriguing insight into the inner workings of the Michelin guide, of restaurant life and the harrowing routines professional chefs striving for the best have to go through for the highest prize.

Informative, dramatic, scary and insightful, for me it was a page turner. Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in the world of professional cooks and its trappings.
May 25, 2007 haley rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I love books about food, And I love books about france. So naturally this book is pretty damn entertaining for me. I love culinary history, and this is a sort of biography of one of France's most famous chefs---so famous that right before his death, 9 out of 10 French people could identify him by name. That's more than the president. Amazing.

Nov 24, 2009 Meg rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Hmmm.... I've been there. I've done that. Yes, chefs really are that obsessed. author repeating the same thing through out the book, may be his obsession, but it is NOT that interesting. I loved the topic, I did not like the writing.
Take it as it is....nice to hear about Loiseau's life.
Sep 24, 2007 Liz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who like weird and fancy food
Shelves: library
If you have any interest in cooking or France, or you just like well-written nonfiction, you need to read this book. And I promise it's not too French - the author translates everything for us lazy schmucks who forgot their HS French years ago.

Books that got 4 stars but stick in your mind for years become 5s.
Mark Poons
Nov 29, 2007 Mark Poons rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. While the story of Bernard Loiseau and La Côte d'Or is extremely fascinating, they only serve as the backdrop to a more important story. What the book is truly about is the rise of the media and critics in dictating the success and failure of restaurants and more importantly for the people that work at them.
Oct 24, 2007 Camas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food-writing
I was absolutely fascinated by this tale of Bernard Loiseau and the rise of his restaurant to three Michelin stars. He committed suicide in 03 when it was rumored the restaurant was about to lose a star. A very good look into the absurdities of the food culture, and the OCD nature it requires to succeed.
Amanda Munoz
Jan 20, 2008 Amanda Munoz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Paired with Julia Child, this made for quite the immersion in French cuisine over the holidays! Enjoyed the perspective on the high pressure environment of French restaurants and the challenge to get to and stay on top.
Jan 21, 2008 Eugenie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: serious foodies and francophiles
Recommended to Eugenie by: Mousumi
Great, fast-paced read; a much brighter story than I expected considering the grim ending. Fascinating exploration of French food and culture. Chelminski's at his best when describing food, wine, and the restaurant business. Otherwise he's a little too enchanted by his own prose.
The true story of famed French chef Bernard Loiseau, his rise as a three Michelin star restauranteur, and his eventual suicide due to the pressure to maintain his stars. A glimpse at the very small world of French haute cuisine.
Stephen Conti
Feb 14, 2008 Stephen Conti rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this when it came out (before there was a michelin guide here in NYC) Amazing look into the French restaurant scene and how Michelin rates them..... scary how dedicated the chefs are...
Nov 29, 2015 Laini rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Pretentiously written. I couldn't take it anymore and had to stop halfway through the book. The author thinks a little too much about the circles he moves in and his place in them for my taste.
Jan 08, 2009 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The saddest book I have ever read.
Feb 19, 2008 Jeremy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and relevant but a slow read for me.
Rob Shurmer
3.5 stars perhaps - A intelligently-written expose of French cuisine since WWII. My only criticism is that it would have benefited from a proper editor who might have cut it by about 150 pages.
Adriana Olson
it takes a while to get through this book but if you are interested in micheilin star ratings i reccommend it. its very history oriented and detailed.
Oct 07, 2009 Erin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Dense. And very French. A serious tome, not a light read.
Aida Khan
Feb 14, 2008 Aida Khan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing insight into the world of French haute cuisine. Also provides some useful cooking tips!
Ilya Evdokimov
Great book about tragic end of an amazing chef
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Reach of a Chef: Beyond the Kitchen
  • Knives at Dawn: America's Quest for Culinary Glory at the Legendary Bocuse d'Or Competition
  • The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness and the Making of a Great Chef
  • Culinary Artistry
  • Think Like a Chef
  • Fork It Over: The Intrepid Adventures of a Professional Eater
  • Beaten, Seared, and Sauced: On Becoming a Chef at the Culinary Institute of America
  • Twain's Feast: Searching for America's Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens
  • On the Line
  • My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals / Portraits, Interviews, and Recipes
  • The Sorcerer's Apprentices: A Season in the Kitchen at Ferran Adrià's elBulli
  • An Omelette and a Glass of Wine
  • Cheesemonger
  • Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink
  • The New Making of a Cook: The Art, Techniques, and Science of Good Cooking
  • Are You Really Going to Eat That?: Reflections of a Culinary Thrill Seeker
  • Don't Try This At Home: Culinary Catastrophes from the World's Greatest Chefs
  • Cooking for Kings: The Life of Antonin Careme, the First Celebrity Chef

Share This Book

“a lobster tail scallop and a ruinously thick slice of T. melanosporum, the black truffle that does for French cuisine what a Wonderbra does for an ambitious ingénue.” 1 likes
More quotes…