Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Roman à Chef

The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine by Rudolph Chelminski

I used to think about going to culinary school, until I realized that being a chef requires not only that you love cooking, but also that you love the manic, testosterone-fueled world of restaurant kitchens, insane work hours, and the psychotic segment of the human race drawn to professional kitchen culture.

After two days working in the kitchen of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis, I learned that I don't love it. But I sure love reading about people who do.

The Perfectionist is ostensibly about the life and tragic death of master French chef Bernard Loiseau, who, plagued by debt, mental illness, and an obsessive fear of losing his Michelin stars, committed suicide in 2003. However, it's also about the grueling apprenticeship system through which French chefs were traditionally trained, the history of the Michelin Guide Rouge, and the transformation of French cuisine in the 20th century from haute to nouvelle to terroir.

Despite the difficulty of watching Loiseau's downward spiral for the last 100 pages, it's also the kind of book that makes you want to save up your money and spend a month eating and drinking your way through the French countryside with gluttonous abandon.

If you like...: Anthony Bourdain's books (the food ones, not the mystery ones) or The Making of a Chef: Mastering Heat at the Culinary Institute by Michael Ruhlman, this book is for you.

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