When the French government released its comprehensive list of the world’s best restaurants in December, New York’s famed Per Se came in second. Tokyo’s insanely exclusive Kyo Aji took home third.
The top spot instead went to the much lesser-known Le Restaurant de l’Hotel de Ville.
The surprise victory suddenly thrust the Swiss restaurant’s young and debonair chef, Benoit Violier, into the international spotlight, hailed in the media as “the world’s best chef.”
At just 44 years old, Violier had a boyish face, a young family and a new, state-of-the-art kitchen. And he had already spent a quarter-century in some of the best restaurants on the planet. He had learned from the best, yet he was a perfectionist who stressed that nothing in the cutthroat business of haute cuisine could be taken for granted.
“The strictness about myself always has to increase more and more,” he once told a restaurant guide. “Nothing can be definitively acquired; everything must be done all over again every day.”
On Sunday, Violier was found dead in his home in Crissier, Switzerland, the victim of what police think was a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to the BBC and other news organizations.
Violier’s apparent suicide has shocked the restaurant world and sown confusion about why he would kill himself a month after being crowned the best chef in the world.
Some of his closest friends offered an answer, though, speculating that the intense stress of running one of the planet’s greatest restaurants suddenly overwhelmed the young chef just as he struggled to cope with the double loss of his father and his closest culinary mentor.
“I am appalled, absolutely destroyed,” Pierre Keller, a wine merchant who shared a drink with Violier 10 days ago, told Swiss newspaper 24 Heures. “It takes a lot of pressure to do that.”