2023 Author: Cody Thornton | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-24 11:20
The suicide of Benoit Violier, 44-year-old number one in La Liste, a French ranking that aggregates the 1,000 best restaurants in the world, is just the latest proof that the kitchens of the world's most prestigious restaurants are full of paralyzing pressures, illicit temptations and lurking inner demons.
Apparently the French-Swiss chef, at the height of his personal success, looked at the world from above, from the privileged position of the Hotel de Ville de Crissier, not far from Lausanne. The restaurant he had taken over in 2013 2012, when he and his wife took over from Philippe Rochat, his mentor and legend of transalpine cuisine, had died suddenly of a heart attack during a mountain bike excursion. last year.
For a chef forty-four years mean little and a lot. At the age of forty-four she acquired the ability to tell through dishes, not one but many stories. And you can still invent, upset, remodel an entire gastronomy. Benoit Violier's forty-four years had taken him to the top.
Gault & Millau, Michelin Guide, World’s 50 Best, La Liste: wherever he counted he and his restaurant were. There were also the sumptuous 350 euro meals, the pilgrimages of enthusiastic gourmets to Switzerland, twenty young chefs to support him in the kitchen, the promising heir Michael Camiotto to back him up.
Lorenzo Albrici, a longtime friend of Violier, chef and owner of Locanda Orico in the Canton of Ticino, told Repubblica yesterday: “Benoit was happy, the fact remains that the pressure to which chefs are subjected today is unimaginable. The higher you get, the less you have the right to make mistakes ".
So what demons took over Benoit Violier's mind, what really caused such an absurd suicide?
The police have opened an investigation to clarify the circumstances of the death, but there seems to be no doubt. Violier took his own life with a shot (he was an expert hunter, and had even written a haute cuisine book on game) on the eve of the presentation of the French Michelin Guide.
We still don't know if it was just a case. It certainly wasn't for another chef, Bernard Loiseau, who committed suicide on February 24, 2003 because the Michelin Guide intended to remove a star from La Côte d’Or, its restaurant in Burgundy.
But from François Vatel onwards, cook and pastry chef at the court of Louis XIV, inventor of Chantilly cream, who committed suicide because he did not deliver the fresh fish in time for a great banquet over 250 km away, the unbearable pressure has made many victims among the cooks.
Homaro Cantu, 38, was a true alchemist of so-called molecular cuisine, the chef who owns the Motu had defined the verb "to cook" as improper: to cook is to understand energy, or lack. In 2007, he was elected Iron Chef America in the famous TV show of the same title.
Cantu, a difficult childhood, known as an enfant terrible, hanged himself in April last year in a place he was renovating. Many hypotheses have been made: the economic crash of his Moto restaurant, the use of illegal funds, or the stress of always being the primus inter pares, the best of the good.
But the list of victims is long, even if we are talking about chefs still alive, fortunately.
Anthony Bourdain, American chef, author of successful books such as Kitchen Confidential and successful TV programs, is a former heroin addict; sexy British television icon Nigella Lawson has admitted to abusing cocaine to help cope with her marriage crisis.
Gordon Ramsay, on the other hand, caught several times with a delirious BAC while driving, was called into question for the deaths of Rachel Brown, in 2007, and of Joseph Cerniglia in 2010: suicides also because both failed in the American edition. of Nightmare kitchens.
The profession of chef is at the top of the list of those most in demand in the world, it may seem like a dream profession, but it is not.
Meanwhile, people work on average from 14 to 18 hours a day, there are no Sundays, no Easter or Christmas. Managing a renowned restaurant is anything but simple. From the kitchen brigade, which must be up to par and compensated accordingly, to the dining room staff, from the constantly modernized structure to customer management, the causes of stress are many.
Tormented by the pursuit of perfection, a situation that prevents them from fully enjoying true privileges by increasing the pressure, chefs are always judged.
The multiplication of guides, blogs, restaurant review sites has certainly not made things better. Each country has at least one national guide, not to mention international and lapidary experiments (see precisely The French Liste), Tripadvisor and anonymous slating.
The spotlight that encourages many young people to enter the profession never goes out.
Opinions, interviews, radio-television appearances, social presence, both the glory and the scazzi multiply exponentially.
Let's say once and for all: the profession of chef is delicate, you need a true vocation. It takes talent, the ascetic calm of a Zen monk and a lot of resistance to fatigue.
A chef puts everything he has in his restaurant. It is not just a business investment, but a sometimes titanic personal effort. And if it fails, the defeat is total, not just economic.
If you are not strong it happens to be trapped. Thus ends the inventiveness, the challenge, sometimes even life.