French-Swiss Chef Benoit Violier, whose restaurant was designated the best restaurant in the world just months ago by La Liste has reportedly taken his own life. His restaurant L’Hotel de Ville in Crissier near Lausanne, was considered the top of the top, and at 44, he was one of the younger chefs to be given this honor.
According to the New York Times, Violier, the French born chef, whose specialty was cooking game, was considered a perfectionist. In 2003, another chef, Bernard Loiseau committed suicide after being devastated that he got a demotion in the Gault Millau guide. He was worried that he was about to lose a star from Michelin, too.
“It can’t keep happening; it just can’t,” the food writer Kat Kinsman said on Monday. In January, she started Chefs With Issues, a project aimed at illuminating the job-related stresses and mental illnesses afflicting many people in the food industry. Depression, anxiety, addiction and eating disorders are common.
Gabriel Waterhouse explains that the industry is very cut-throat and competitive.
“People are quite macho in the industry,” he said. “And people don’t feel they can really talk about their problems or the stresses of what is being asked of them.” He added, “It is considered a sign of weakness if you complain, and that is intensified the higher and higher you go.”
In 2013, Violier was named chef of the year.
“It would seem that he has ended his life with a firearm,” a statement by the police said, adding that an investigation had been opened.
Chefs like Paul Bocuse were shocked by Violier’s suicide. Patricia Zizza, who worked with Bocuse, said the amount of attention and dedication is incredible.
“Chefs are in the theater and must produce great work, and there is strong pressure to maintain that excellence,” Ms. Zizza said. “It requires an enormous amount of attention, from assuring the quality of the products to directing teams of people. And it entails many sacrifices, including to one’s personal life.”
Violier was thought of as a humble and self-depilating chef, liked throughout the industry.
“I feel a heavy responsibility to be named number one,” he said in an interview with The New York Times, published in December. He added that the key to his success was consistency, not flashiness, and he singled out his loyal team, including Louis Villeneuve, his maître d’hôtel, who has been in his post for four decades.
Forbes is reporting that Benoit Violier has died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his home. Violier feel that it is a great responsibility to win such prestigious awards.
“A veritable temple of gastronomy!” the Michelin guide called the restaurant. “Following on from Frédy Girardet and Philippe Rochat, Benoît Violier now runs this noble property with a rare talent. His brilliant, subtle yet powerful dishes are worthy of the best classic cuisine, accompanied by exceptional service in the true spirit of tradition. With its unique and unchanging flavors, the food maintains its characteristic excellence.”
Violet’s wife Brigitte is reportedly stunned by her husband’s death, and is saddened for his 12-year-old son, Romain.
People Magazine said Benoit Violier was a “chef’s chef,” and that he was well-liked by those in his industry. Violier was so gracious about the many fans of his cooking and restaurant.
“The ranking that counts is that my clients continue to have pleasure coming here. I have a business to run with 54 employees. The most fantastic (reaction) is when your customers pay the bill while reserving for the next time. Last Saturday, a client broke down in tears saying what she had eaten was so wonderful.”
Restauranteur Fredy Girardet, who gave Benoit Violier his start, is heartbroken.
“I don’t know what to say. He was a student I loved. I’m completely stunned. I see no reason for such an act. He was a brilliant boy. With great talent and an impressive work potential. He gave the impression of being perfect.”
Were you lucky enough to have dined at Benoit Violier’s restaurant?
[Photo by Michel Euler/AP]