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


3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  479 ratings  ·  41 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 of 1,128)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Jan 24, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  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
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 26, 2007 Sara rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
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
Melita SA
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
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 ...
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.
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.

Mark Poons
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.
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.
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.
Jun 07, 2008 Eugenie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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.
Dec 03, 2007 Liz rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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.
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.
Amanda Munoz
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.
Stephen Conti
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...
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.
so sad. a history of an incredibly famous chef in france, his quest for the culinary guides' crown, and his fall. fascinating and terrifying. and the french eat ortolan (tiny birds) *whole*???
A very sad story about the nightmare of bipolar disorder in a very famous chef. For foodies, the inside view of the world of Michelin starred restaurants in France is fascinating.
Carol Hukari
An absorbing tale of a Michelangelo chef with three stars. His rise to fame overshadowed only by his accomplishments and his untimely end. A very good read
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 16, 2012 Jo marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I registered a book at!
A great book about the Michelin Guide, its history, and how French restaurants gain and lose stars. Anyone who loves to cook would love this book.
Quite possibly the best chef biography I've ever read, and a fascinating look at the world in which the top chefs of France have to work.
mindy Marranca
I am just a bit into this, and not loving it. I am usually a sucker for food/chef related writing, and this one isn't very good.
One complaint: The author's attempt to depict complexity in Loiseau character often comes out more as a confusion.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 37 38 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Reach of a Chef: Beyond the Kitchen
  • The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness and the Making of a Great Chef
  • Culinary Artistry
  • Knives at Dawn: America's Quest for Culinary Glory at the Legendary Bocuse d'Or Competition
  • Think Like a Chef
  • An Omelette and a Glass of Wine
  • My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals / Portraits, Interviews, and Recipes
  • Twain's Feast: Searching for America's Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens
  • Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink
  • Are You Really Going to Eat That?: Reflections of a Culinary Thrill Seeker
  • The Physiology of Taste: Or, Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy (Harvest/Hbj Book)
  • Cheesemonger
  • On the Line
  • The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food
  • Letters to a Young Chef
  • How I Learned To Cook: Culinary Educations from the World's Greatest Chefs
  • The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating
  • Beaten, Seared, and Sauced: On Becoming a Chef at the Culinary Institute of America
I'll Drink to That: Beaujolais and the French Peasant Who Made It the World's Most Popular Wine Paris ( Die grossen Städte ) Superwreck: Amoco Cadiz; The Shipwreck That Had to Happen The French at Table: Why the French Know How to Eat Better Than Any People on Earth and How They Have Gone about It, from the Gauls to Paul Paris-The Great Cities Series

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.” 0 likes
More quotes…