Benoit Violier: Acclaimed Chef Dies In Apparent Suicide

Benoit Violier, 44, was found dead at his Crissier, Switzerland, home on Sunday afternoon. Although it was not yet confirmed, authorities believe the world-renowned chef died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

In the weeks prior to his death, Benoit Violier’s restaurant, de l’Hotel de Ville, was voted the world’s best by France’s LA LISTE. Benoit was subsequently dubbed “The World’s Best Chef.”

As reported by Daily Mail, the award-winning chef was expected to attend a launch party for the new Michelin Guide on Monday. Although the party went on as planned, the participants observed a moment of silence to reflect on the passing of their colleague and friend.

A native of La Rochelle, France, Benoit Violier was born into a family of winemakers. However, as his father was also an avid hunter, Benoit learned to hunt and cook big game at a young age.

At the age of 19, Violier moved to Paris to pursue his dreams of becoming a professional chef. Working with a number of distinguished chefs, including Benoît Guichard, Bruno Gricourt, Sylvain Knecht, Jean Phillipon, and Eric Bouchenoire, the young man continued to hone his skills throughout the early and mid-1990s.

In 1996, Benoit Violier moved to Crissier, Switzerland, where he began working with the illustrious Philippe Rochat.

As he admired and respected the young chef as a friend and a colleague, Rochat trained him to take over the infamous de l’Hotel de Ville. In an interview with Food Arts, Benoit said his plan included a complete remodel of the restaurant’s kitchen.

“We started the transition and planning process in the summer of 2006, when I sketched my dream kitchen while on vacation in Corsica… I spent the next six years refining the concept, never wavering from the initial plan… I want[ed] the most beautiful kitchen in Europe.”

Although it cost more than $1 million, Violier eventually built his dream kitchen. The 3,735 square foot room boasts “10 induction units, four gas units, and 24 stations.”

The restaurant business is notoriously unforgiving. However, Benoit Violier maintained and eventually exceeded de l’Hotel de Ville’s stellar reputation. Unfortunately, he suffered a series of personal losses — which may have overshadowed all of his prior achievements.

Last year, the renowned chef lost both his father and his mentor, Philippe Rochat, within a period of a few months. The Washington Post reports Benoit was “badly shaken” by the devastating loss.

Throughout his career, the talented chef was honored with numerous awards, including being named Chef of the Year 2013 by Gault & Millau. His restaurant was honored with a three-star rating by Michelin and was recently named the best restaurant in the world.

Unfortunately, the award-winning chef was hiding pain that nobody could see. Although it is unclear what drove Violier to take his own life, food critic and writer William Sitwell suggests “Michelin-starred” chefs are under incredible pressure to maintain their coveted status.

“Michelin-starred chef. That very phrase seems to conjure up something… It puts you in a completely new culinary class… Most decent chefs are aiming for culinary excellence. They want to produce good, tasty plates of food. But what happens when you add the words ‘Michelin-starred’ into that recipe? I wonder if, at that point, the path toward perfection becomes dangerously obsessive.”

Although he seemed to have the culinary world at his fingertips, it is impossible to know what Benoit was feeling inside. Fortunately, there are resources for individuals who are suffering from depression and contemplating suicide.

The Suicide Prevention Lifeline has a toll-free number, which is available 24/7. Anyone who needs help is encouraged to call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to be connected with a counselor.

Benoit Violier’s colleagues, family, and friends are experiencing an immense loss. However, it is hoped that his story will encourage others to seek help if they are having suicidal thoughts.

[Image via AP Photo/Michel Euler]