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French-Swiss Chef Benoît Violier Found Dead After Apparent Suicide

Is Michelin to blame?

Marina Forney/Official

Late yesterday French and Swiss press confirmed that chef Benoît Violier of the Michelin-starred Restaurant de l'Hotel de Ville Crissier was found dead in his home in Crissier, Switzerland (45 minutes Northeast of Geneva) at age 44. Though authorities have not yet confirmed the exact cause, suicide is suspected. A hunting rifle was used. Violier had presided over the three Michelin-starred Restaurant Crissier in Crissier, Switzerland for nearly 17 years, first as chef de cuisine and then as executive chef.

Chefs throughout Europe and many in the food world are stunned. If suicide, the impetus for Violier's action is not immediately apparent. Violier was due to attend Michelin's unveiling of France's new slate of starred restaurants this evening in Paris. As of last October, when Switzerland's 2016 stars were announced, Restaurant Crissier had maintained its 3-star status. Staff and restaurant management relayed to media that the restaurant had not lost business nor its reputation within the community, and are confused as to why Violier would be moved to commit such an act.

In a sort of sad, twisted irony, this year's guide to France demoted Le Relais Bernard Loiseau in Saulieu, Burgundy from three stars to two. Formerly known as La Côte d'Orthe restaurant's namesake, chef Bernard Loiseau killed himself in 2003 after another guide demoted his restaurant and news reports suggested he might lose his third Michelin star. No suicide note was left. Pressures from the media, his colleagues, general competition, and a proclivity to perfectionism were blamed for the chef's untimely death at 52.

The similarities between the two men's deaths are uncanny and unfortunate. Both men were hunters and used a hunting rifle to end their life. Both men were bestowed with one of France's highest honors, the Meilleur Ouvrier de France. Both men worked closely with their wives. It is unclear if and when Restaurant de l'Hotel de Ville Crissier will resume operations. The restaurant's Facebook page is flooded with condolences.

Violier's father died last year, as did his mentor and "second father," the chef who promoted him to chef de cuisine, Philippe Rochat; Violier took over Restaurant Crissier after Rochat's death. In 2014, Violier told Swiss TV RTS that stress was essential to maintain perfection: "It's my life. I go to sleep with cooking, I wake up to cooking."

Based in the U.S.? Here is a local suicide prevention hotline, for reference.