Questions linger over why star chef took life
Tributes flowed from around the world on Monday for Benoît Violier, the French-Swiss chef named the “best in the world”, following his death by apparent suicide, while questions lingered over why he took his life.
Police on Sunday discovered the lifeless body of Violier, 44, at his home in the village of Crissier, near Lausanne, where he ran a restaurant that was acclaimed in December as the world’s best by La Liste, compiled for the French government.
Vaud cantonal police have launched an investigation into the case but said the death appeared to be a suicide, while media reports indicated the celebrated chef shot himself with a gun.
“Nobody can explain the fatal act,” the local 24heures newspaper said in an online report.
Violier seemed to have everything going his way as chef of one of just three restaurants in Switzerland awarded three stars by the Michelin Guide.
He and his wife Brigitte had run the Hôtel de Ville restaurant after taking it over in 2012 from his mentor Philippe Rochat, another celebrated chef who died six months ago from a malaise while cycling in the region.
Did he leave a note?
None has yet been reported and there appeared to be no signs of forewarning.
Brigitte Violier has not publicly commented on the death and justice authorities have asked the media to leave the family alone to allow them to deal with the tragedy in peace.
But 24heures reported that the Hôtel de Ville would reopen for business on Tuesday (it is normally closed on Sunday and Monday) with Violier’s second in command, Franck Giovannini in charge.
The newspaper said the staff had decided to continue working.
However, Le Matin newspaper said the long-term future of the restaurant remained in doubt without Violier at the helm.
Meanwhile, food lovers and other chefs lavished praise on Violier and what he had accomplished.
On Monday in Paris, organizers of an event to unveil the 2016 Michelin Guide observed a minute’s silence to mourn his loss while honouring his contribution to gastronomy.
“We are shocked by the passing of Benoit Violier, a chef of immense talent,” staff from the guide tweeted.
“Our thoughts go to his family and his team.”
Fredy Girardet, the acclaimed Swiss chef whose family started the Hôtel de Ville, told the 24heures newspaper the news of Violier’s death was a blow.
“I am completely dazed,” Giradet said.
“I see no motive for such an act,” he said, adding that he was a “brilliant” chef with an “enormous amount of talent” and an impressive potential for work.
Among Violier’s projects was a plan to open an academy dedicated to the culinary arts in French-speaking Switzerland.
His death recalls the suicides of other successful Swiss people, such as Carsten Schloter, former head of Swisscom in July 2013 and Pierre Wauthier, the former financial director of Zurich Insurance a month later.
“We systematically associate suicide with failure but it can also result from success,” University of Lausanne psychologist Koorosh Massoudi told Le Temps newspaper.
Top chefs like top executives can have too much autonomy and seek constantly for excellence, which can create distressful situations, he said.
“There is also obviously exterior pressures which push them to always search for perfection; the system of stars in cuisine or financial results and other measurements for businesses.”