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Paying their respects Top chefs mark passing of Benoît Violier

People pay tribute to Benoît Violier at Lausanne Cathedral on Friday

(Keystone)

Some 1,500 people, including well-known names from the world of haute cuisine, have attended a service in Lausanne Cathedral for top chef Benoit Violier, who was found dead on January 31.

The canton Vaud police have confirmed that the 44-year-old’s death was a suicide.

Recently named the world’s top chef, Violier, ran the restaurant L’Hotel de Ville external linkin Crissier near Lausanne.

Among those joining Violier’s wife and child in paying their respects on Friday were Swiss star chefs Frédy Giradetexternal link and Anton Mosimannexternal link, as well as French big names Joël Robuchonexternal link and Anne-Sophie Picexternal link.

Politicians and sporting names were also among those attending the service in the packed cathedral.

The burial will take place on Saturday in Saintes, in Charente-Maritime in western France, Violier’s home town.

Great shock

Violier’s death followed the loss last year of his father and his mentor, the chef Philippe Rochat, who died from a cycling injury in July. His passing caused great shock among his colleagues and friends and has reignited the debate about the pressures that top chefs can face.

Another chef, the Frenchman Bernard Loiseau, also committed suicide in 2003.

Violier, a citizen of France and recently of Switzerland, took over the L’Hotel de Ville restaurant in 2012 with his wife. It was named the world’s best restaurant in December by France’s La Listeexternal link, and had been awarded three Michelinexternal link stars and 19 out of 20 Gault Millauexternal link points. 

A keen hunter, Violier was also known for his game cuisine and produced a huge book on game meat last year.

Violier's death is under investigation. He had been scheduled to attend the launch of the new Michelin guide in Paris on Monday.

Tributes

“You are now in calmness and serenity, rest in peace,” said his widow, Brigitte Violier, during the service.

For abbot Emmanuel Rudacogora, it was important to say a final farewell to “a man who wanted to fill hearts as well as stomachs”. He added to the crowd: “you have all come with questions and you will probably all leave without any answers”.

Industrialist André Kudelski, who is a shareholder in the restaurant, had encouraging words for Franck Giovannini, who is heading the kitchen since Violier’s death, and the rest of the team – the restaurant reportedly opened on Tuesday - saying they were setting as high a standard as their late boss. He, too, expressed his regrets, saying of Violier that “as you gave so much to others, you perhaps forgot your own dreams”.

For his part, Giovannini paid a touching tribute to Violier. “Thank you for your incredible energy and generosity,” he said. “I will continue your work. Goodbye boss.”

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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