Sometimes the quest for the finest quality can go too far. Bernard Loiseau was a French chef who allowed his pursuit of perfection to drive him to suicide. He worked his way up the ranks, apprenticing under the best chefs. In 1982, he bought La Côte d’Or and by 1991 he had earned a coveted three stars from the Michelin Guide. Loiseau was the first chef to have his restaurant publicly traded on the stock exchange. He also expanded into producing cookbooks, three small restaurants in Paris, a boutique, and a line of frozen foods. Loiseau was showered with medals by the French government, honoring success after success. If this sounds like the plot of Pixar’s Ratatouille it should.

But tastes changed. Nouvelle cuisine wasn’t new anymore. Fusion was the new wave. Louiseau was deeply in debt from all of his expansion and suffering from recurrent bouts of depression. He lost two points in the Gault Millau Guide (from 19/20 to 17/20) and rumors were swirling that he was going to lose one of his Michelin stars. It was too much for him and Loiseau ended his life with a shotgun blast on February 24, 2003. He was fifty-two years old.

Today’s word, éperdument, (aypairduemon) means “passionately.” It’s related to the verb “perdre,” which means “to lose.” I find it fascinating that the line between doing something with passion and losing one’s way is so fine. Sadly, that often seems to be the way with brilliant people.

The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine

About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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