Chef Benoit Violier, the top-ranking chef in France’s La Liste – a new initiative of the French Foreign Ministry ranking the world’s top 1,000 restaurants – has been found dead in his home in Switzerland in an apparent suicide, according to a report from BBC. Violier was 44 at the time of his death, and ran the Restaurant de l’Hotel de Ville in Crissier, Switzerland, near the city of Lausanne.
The restaurant has earned three Michelin Stars since Chef Violier took over in 2012 with his wife, Brigitte, before formally becoming Swiss citizens. Violier was set to attend the launch of the new Michelin Guide in Paris on Monday.
His death comes only six months after the death of his mentor, Philippe Rochat, former owner of the Restaurant de l’Hotel de Ville, where Chef Violier had worked since 1996.
Fellow three-star chef Fredy Girardet told Swiss news outlet 24 Heures that Violier was “a brilliant man.”
French chef Pierre Gagnaire tweeted that “My thoughts go out to Benoit Violier’s family. Very sad news about an extremely talented chef.”
“Such talent, and an amazing capacity for work. He was so kind, with so many qualities. He gave the impression of being perfect.”
La Liste was launched by the French Foreign Ministry and tourism board as a direct counter to the UK-based World’s Best 50 Restaurants and covers 1,000 restaurants worldwide, according to Forbes. Although France is often seen (and often bills itself) as the world center of fine dining, Japan actually topped the list in pure volume with 126 entries, including Tokyo’s introduction-only Kyo Aji at No. 3, and although run by French chefs, the top ranking went to Chef Violier’s restaurant in Switzerland. The United States ranks third overall with 101 restaurants, with New York’s Per Se taking No. 2.
Unlike World’s Best 50 Restaurants, La Liste uses a complex algorithm to determine rankings, rather than human “inspectors” who are subject to nepotism and their own personal tastes; La Liste factors in more than 200 international dining guides, crowd-sourced review websites, and reviews from the New York Times and Washington Post; it also considers top restaurant reviewers such as Zagat, Michelin, the James Beard Award, Gault & Millau, OpenTable, and more, to provide a theoretically far more impartial list.
Chef Violier was born in France and was an avid hunter, known for his signature dishes incorporating game animals; he recently published a book on cooking game titled La cuisine du gibier a poil d’europe (roughly translated, Cooking with European Game) which at over $110 USD was still one of Amazon’s Best Of 2015, and described the La Liste award as an “exceptional honour.”
The Telegraph notes that Violier’s family has asked for privacy “to be allowed to mourn in peace.”
Unfortunately, this is not the first suicide in recent years of a high-profile French chef, and many others have closed their restaurants. The job of a famous chef is known to be an extremely stressful one, especially given the recent increased attention on famous chefs worldwide, thanks to cable television’s fascination with celebrity chefs. Master Chef, hosted by various celebrity chefs including well-known angry Scotsman, Michelin-winning French-trained chef Gordon Ramsay, was recently renewed for a 7th season, and Top Chef was renewed for its 13th; these in addition to many cooking and eating programs hosted by various cooking personalities.
Today, chefs and gastronomes around the world mourn the loss of one of cooking’s finest, and the fate of the world’s best restaurant – at least, according to La Liste – remains to be seen.
[AP Photo/Michel Euler]