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Chelminski, Rudolph 1934–

Chelminski, Rudolph 1934–


Born February 21, 1934, in Wilton, CT; son of Roman (an engineer) and Pauline Chelminski; married Brien Mutrux, December 29, 1966; children: Roman Michael, Stephane Aimee. Education: Harvard University, B.A., 1956; attended Institut d'Etudes Politiques, 1961-62.


Home and office—Bourron-Marlotte, France. Agent—Matthew Guma, Inkwell Management, 521 5th Ave., 26th Fl., New York, NY 10175.


Rocky Mountain News, Denver, CO, worked as copy editor and general assignment reporter; Life, New York, NY, worked as reporter, correspondent from Paris, bureau chief in Moscow, U.S.S.R., and deputy bureau chief in Paris, France; freelance writer, 1972—. Military service: U.S. Army, Field Artillery, 1957-58; served in Korea.


American Society of Journalists and Authors.



Prisoner of Mao, Coward, McCann (New York, NY), 1973.

Paris, Time-Life (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 1976.

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 Bocuse, William Morrow (New York, NY), 1985.

Superwreck: Amoco Cadiz: The Shipwreck that Had to Happen, William Morrow (New York, NY), 1987.

The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine (biography), Penguin Group (New York, NY), 2005.

I'll Drink to That: Beaujolais and the French Peasant Who Made It the World's Most Popular Wine, Gotham Books (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to magazines.


Rudolph Chelminski is an American journalist who has lived and worked in Paris for many years, sampling and often writing about the food he came to enjoy and the culinary artists who create it. His 2005 book, The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine, is the biography of a remarkable French chef named Bernard Loiseau. Loiseau was a chef so sensitive to the opinions of critics that, ultimately, his very life depended on their approval. The chef developed a style so simple and minimal that "it also tended to be oddly ascetic and depressing," observed Adam Gopnik in his New Yorker review, but nevertheless, Loiseau's approach was unfamiliar enough to intrigue diners. Loiseau's goal was to restore the reputation of a small, out-of-the-way dining establishment called La Côte d'Or to its former status as a three-star restaurant of the prestigious Michelin Red Guide. He achieved his objective, but the chef's desperation to retain the three-star rating became an obsession. The Perfectionist describes Loiseau's life and his quest for perfection right up to 2003, when he committed suicide. Gopnik called the story of Bernard Loiseau "heartbreaking and instantly understandable." Regarding its author, he observed: "Chelminski knows the French food world intimately and has a moving story to tell." In the telling, Chelminski also provides an anecdotal history of contemporary French cooking and the role of the Michelin Guides as guardians of its standards. A contributor to Publishers Weekly called The Perfectionist "knowledgeable and breezily entertaining."

In I'll Drink to That: Beaujolais and the French Peasant Who Made It the World's Most Popular Wine, which Library Journal reviewer John Charles deemed a "deliciously amusing tale," Chelminski describes the rise in popularity of the humble Beaujolais. For centuries, farmers in the Beaujolais, a small region between Lyon and Mâcon, tended the gamay grape and made a local wine that, unlike most others, is best enjoyed when it is new. Beaujolais attracted little attention until the early 1950s when an entrepreneurial peasant, Georges Duboeuf, realized its potential and began aggressively marketing it. The wine quickly became a national and even international favorite, with each new vintage eagerly awaited. The story of Beaujolais, however, is much more than the story of a wine. As Chelminski explained in an interview in Into Wine, his subject is "the Beaujolais," a term that encompasses not only the wine but the region and its people and culture. "In my book," Chelminski noted, "I set out to depict the land, the people, the history, the traditions and folklore as well as the wine. And Beaujolais Nouveau is only one part of all this."

Critics welcomed I'll Drink to That as an enjoyable and informative account. A writer for Publishers Weekly described it as a "stylish history of French wine-making, and an unblushing tribute to Duboeuf's achievements." As a writer for Food Reference commented, the book "transports us to the unique corner of France where medieval history still echoes" in the struggle of small-holder farmers against the snobbish wine establishment.



Booklist, September 1, 2007, Mark Knoblauch, review of I'll Drink to That: Beaujolais and the French Peasant Who Made It the World's Most Popular Wine, p. 35.

Library Journal, November 1, 2007, John Charles, review of I'll Drink to That, p. 90.

New Yorker, April 4, 2005, Adam Gopnik, review of The Perfectionist: Life and Death in Haute Cuisine, p. 88.

Publishers Weekly, March 28, 2005, review of The Perfectionist, p. 65; July 30, 2007, review of I'll Drink to That, p. 65.


Food Reference, (May 30, 2008), review of I'll Drink to That.

Into Wine, (May 30, 2008), Brad Prescott, "Beaujolais, Georges Duboeuf and the Evolution of Nouveau: Rudolph Chelminski Discusses His New Book."

Paris Expat, (May 30, 2008), interview with Rudolph Chelminski.

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