Shocking News

Joined Jul 24, 2001
It seems that chef Bernard Loiseau, commited suicide.

I have just heard the francophone TV5Europe and they are talking about how desperate he felt when Le guide Gault-Millau underestimated his restaurant...

Paul Bocuse talked about the "dictatorship" of those guides...

The death of Chef Loiseau was the first issue in French News yesterday.

For those who speak French...,5987...10618-,00.html
Joined Dec 4, 2002
Yeah, I saw that article. Pretty weird, sad.
But you can't blame it on the guides, obviously the guy had some other serious problems.
Can you imagine killing yourself because William Grimes gave you 2 stars instead of 3? (I wish!) Or the AAA guide giving you only four diamonds instead of 5? Absurd.
But no less sad. The world lost another great chef, and that's not too funny.


Joined Apr 4, 2000
Bernard Loiseau lost two points in the new edition of the Gault Millau guide, from 19/20 to 17/20. One critic's opinion was of such importance to him he decided he could no longer live.

His suicide has started a polemic in France about restaurants guides and gastronomic critics. Is the rating system putting too much pressure on chefs? Is the rating system currently in use fair to the chefs? Are the chefs willing participants or are they just used by the publishers of the many guides you find on the bookshelves?
Joined Jul 24, 2001
Why my chef friend died
A triple Michelin-starred French chef has killed himself apparently
because of a poor review in another guide. Marco Pierre White, who knew
him, describes the pressures at the highest level of the culinary world
Marco Pierre White
Wednesday February 26 2003
The Guardian

Bernard Loiseau, in my opinion, was one of the great leaders of French
cooking, a pioneer of gastronomy. You don't win three Michelin stars, or
19 out of 20 from the Gault Millau guide, without being extraordinarily
talented. I genuinely think he was one of the most important chefs that
France has produced. But I don't believe that the loss of two points
from the Gault Millau guide was what led him to take his own life.
Loiseau had a big enough personality, and a big enough talent, not to
allow something like that to drive him to such despair. He knew, and the
people who cook at that level will still know, that he was one of the
greatest chefs in the country, even if his restaurant had been
downgraded for some reason.

My impression of Loiseau was that, like a lot of chefs, he was one thing
inside the kitchen, and another thing altogether outside. A lot of chefs
have Jekyll and Hyde personalities; they can be very calm, placid people
when they are not cooking, but once inside the kitchen they can turn
into monsters. It is simply because the job is so pressurised. If you
are a chef, once inside a kitchen you absolutely have to deliver.
Everything you put on a plate, every plate you give to a customer, is a
little piece of your reputation on trial.

What I hear of Loiseau was that he was a hard taskmaster in the kitchen,
but that is part of what is necessary to be a great chef. He was quite a
quiet man, but at the same time he could be very ebullient, very
charismatic. I could sit and talk to him for hours about cookery. He was
a great philosopher of gastronomy.

The problem with being a very high-achieving chef is that you have to
work very hard to stay at that level. I have been in the same situaion
as Loiseau - I had three Michelin stars and 19/20 from Gault Millau - so
I can understand clearly his position. The bottom line is this: when you
are establishing your reputation as a chef, winning your three stars, it
is quite exciting. You are pushing forward, making your name; you are on
the trail to win something. But once you have got there, you suddenly
find yourself in a position where everything you do is in defence of
your reputation, and that can be an enormous worry.

The other thing that can happen when you win those kinds of accolade is
that the game changes. A lot of chefs start doing TV, opening other
restaurants, endorsing products. It takes up time, and they not are
cooking as much any more. I can't really comment on whether that
happened with Loiseau, but it is a danger for chefs once they start
becoming successful.

In the end I gave back my three stars and gave up cooking. It just
struck me one day that I was being judged by people with less knowledge
than myself of how to cook - so what was the value of their good
opinion? And I feel that would certainly apply to Loiseau. His knowledge
was far, far greater than that of any inspector who works for the
guides. They simply didn't have the qualifications to judge him. How
could they say that he had fallen from a 19 to a 17? I simply don't
believe that he would have allowed standards to fall that far, in the
establishment that he created. To go from 19 to 17 in the Gault Millau
is a really big drop. But you notice that there was no suggestion of
Michelin taking away his stars.

This is one of the problems about the guide books. They have to promote
people and demote people each year to make the guides interesting. If
they didn't knock a star off here or a couple of points there, what
would be the point of buying the guide? The reality is that the Gault
Millau and the Michelin are running a business, and they have to create
a buzz every year. By knocking Loiseau from 19 to 17 they generate
publicity, which generates sales. So this year they gave Marc Veyrat 20
out of 20, the highest mark ever, and Loiseau 17. It creates a massive
story and they then sell more copies.

What should change? Simple. Chefs should not put so much importance on
the guides. It is the ego of the chefs, after all, that gives the
Michelin guide such prestige and status. I was certainly guilty of that:
a lot of what I did was driven by my ego and my insecurity.

The fact is that when I was a boy there wasn't the same emphasis placed
on stars in this country. We went to work to do our job, to do it well,
to learn to be good cooks - great cooks if we could manage it. Chefs
today want to win stars. We are placing a greater importance on the
stars than on our kitchens. And of course the greatest guide is really
the customer. If the customer comes back again - that is what is
important. We should be grateful that they choose to walk through our
doors, not feel that we are doing them a favour by allowing them into
our restaurant. I have been guilty of that: now I just want my customers
to be happy, not to be decorated for what I do.

But I don't agree with those who have suggested that somehow the guides
are responsible for Bernard's death. There must have been many more
contributing factors to why he did what he did. At the end of the day we
will never know, and why should we expect to?

Loiseau will be remembered as one of the great chefs of France - and he
will always be remembered. He lives on through his cooks and the people
he taught and inspired. All those cooks he has taught will continue to
fly the flag for Loiseau's cooking. Even though he is gone, there will
still be people out there who he will be making very happy, if
indirectly. That is a lot more important than a mark in a guide book.

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited
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