Haute gastronomy, abuse included

Haute gastronomy is a ruthless universe. Beneath the glamour, the eagerness to receive well, to present quality dishes, to refine exceptional dishes is played out behind the scenes, in the forges of Vulcain, in tough games. The camera, the shot and the orders thrown on the fly put pressure on the brigades under tension. A wrong word, too much humiliation can quickly degenerate while on the other side, in the dining room, the ballet of waiters, sommeliers and waiters is activated.

Paul Renoir had succeeded in everything. His restaurant, The promises, on the heights of Annecy, had won its third star. He had just been nominated by his peers “best chef in the world”. And his palace, equipped with an oversized spa, brought upscale customers to the mountain pastures. The struggle to climb to such a peak had been tough, far from the sweet beatitudes in the unpretentious kitchen of her Gers grandmother, Yvonne, a renowned bistrotière in “brioche cheeks”, “the skin impregnated with a thick aroma of grilled rib steak”who was content with his local glory.

Gritting his teeth, his grandson skipped the stages of his initiatory journey, endured the insults of crackpots, practiced his scales on different pianos before establishing himself as a concert performer of flavors, a sculptor of new tastes, an alchemist of textures. A great leader praised, admired, therefore jealous, arousing the acid hatred of his competitors. Paul Renoir has wind that the Guide who distributes the coveted stars is about to take two of them away, because of a violent episode in the kitchen…

Confidant of great chefs, gastronomic journalist at the Michelin Guide for fifteen years, Gautier Battistella, through this empathetic and cruel thriller, makes “Tribute to these artists in the shadows who are called cooks”. We see scrolling, scratched, Paul Bocuse (“the untouchable saint”), Alain Ducasse (” the Godfather “), Marc Veyrat (“Howard Hughes of the Aravis”), Pierre Gagnaire, spared.

This social thriller against a backdrop of tragic destiny, with, in the background, the excesses of a world won over by the law of financiers, the poison of excessive media coverage, the need to appear and the hard desire to last is inspired by the suicides of Bernard Loiseau in 2003 and Benoît Violier in 2016. The promises will continue without Paul Renoir…

“A happy cook does not exist”, maintains the novelist, who knows them well. Can you imagine a body of trades that “puts his title and his reputation at stake” at each service, delivered at the mercy of a fastidious mystery inspector or bad-tempered influencers? This sharp, thrilling description, which tears away the veil of appearances, can also be read as the crossing of a century of French gastronomy.


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