Ratatouille is one of the most affirming and touching movies to come out of the brilliant Disney/Pixar partnership, but the stories of the real-life figures that inspired it are far from family-friendly. Chef Gusteau may not have a corporal form for the major events of the movie, but his positive spirit and inclusive attitude help Remy the Rat become the successful chef he was born to be.
In reality, there was an equally inspiring chef who stood firm in what he believed in—until a tragic (and familiar) circumstance lead to a truly upsetting end.
Chef Gusteau's inspiration was Chef Bernard Loiseau, and their similarities are striking
Like Gusteau, Loiseau found joy and creativity in "nouvelle cuisine," a cooking style consisting of light dishes with a finely tuned presentation. He's part of the reason that all those enticing dishes in Ratatouille looked so damn appetizing because he foregrounded the concept of eating with your eyes first.
His approach won him worldwide acclaim and gained his restaurant, La Côte d'Or, a coveted three star rating from the stringent Michelin Guide. For comparison's sake, only nine American restaurants received three stars in 2015 out of thousands upon thousands that were rated.
Needless to say, the rating is a huge deal to chefs.
Sadly, it's more than acclaim and fine cuisine that unite the two chefs
In Ratatouille, Gusteau passes away almost immediately after his esteemed restaurant loses two stars. It turns out that this was not just Disney's penchant for killing off parental figures (imagined or otherwise), and a scarily similar circumstance happened to Chef Loiseau.
Though he worked vigorously to maintain his status, a rival guide to Michelin, the Gault Millau, reduced Loiseau's restaurant score from a 19 (out of a possible 20) to a 17. Soon after, there were rampant rumors that Michelin would drop a star from his rating, and the chef was in the throes of an identity crisis. As La Côte d'Or's longtime maître d' admitted:
[He] was so tired and so fed up (with) everything, and he say he was just walking around in the kitchen, and here, and he say, ‘I’m not good enough. I’ve — I did what I could, but I’m not good enough. I’m not real good. I said, ‘No, don’t say this. You’re the most known chef in France, and I mean one of the most known in the world’ … and day after day, maybe the last week, was crazy time. Crazy.
As new food crazes began sweeping France, Loiseau began to doubt his position in the intensely stressful world.
Amid his restaurant turmoil, Loiseau turned a gun on himself and committed suicide
It would be wrong to suggest that these rating guides caused Loiseau's suicide, but the fears and pressures that they drummed up created a fear in the famous chef that he could not shake. Two days before he made the final decision, he came home and confessed to his wife:
No, Dominique, I’m sure...Now, I know the press want to kill me.
It's a heartbreaking background on a fictional character who seems jolly and unabashed, but it just goes to show that there are some dark realities lingering behind even the most inspiring of people.
But Loiseau lives on in the spirit of Gusteau and the message that great food should be for everyone
He may no longer be with us, but Loiseau, like the spirit of Gusteau that encourages Remy, lives on in the message that he sent to the world. Throughout his astonishing career, he felt that everyone should have access to fine cuisine regardless of their financial background or social status.
That uplifting and timely stance clearly pervades Ratatouille, and although his life ended in tragedy, I'm glad that what he stood for could live on in a movie seen by millions. In that way, Loiseau's greatest attributes can be seen in Gusteau, so maybe he's not entirely gone after all.
(Source: The Daily Beast)