Benoît Violier's Devastating 2016 Death

The death of any widely celebrated chef is incredibly sad. Benoît Violier's death, in particular, raises troubling questions about the upper echelons of the culinary world and its effects on chefs.

Although his life was tragically cut short, Violier still accomplished much before he died. According to the BBC, he was born in western France during the early 1970s. From his mother, Violier learned to love cooking, and from his father, he learned about hunting as well as cognac and wine. By the early '90s, Violier moved to Paris and trained with top chefs there. It was then he learned both rigorous discipline and the beautiful artistry of gastronomy. Violier once explained his outlook, stating, "Nothing is ever definitive, everything must be repeated every day."

Such dedication to excellence paid off. In 2012 — per Forbes — Violier took over Restaurant de l'Hôtel de Ville in Switzerland, replacing his mentor, Phillipe Rochat. During his tenure, Violier's kitchen served dishes like black turbot filet, locally grown cardoons with black truffles, and roast saddle of suckling lamb with mustard juice. The Washington Post noted fresh game especially was among the restaurant's specialties. In 2015, Restaurant de l'Hôtel de Ville earned the number one spot on a list of best restaurants by the French Foreign Ministry. The place also held a Michelin three-star rating at the time.


Violier died of suicide on January 31, 2016, according to Forbes. Professional peers and culinary journalists grappled with loss in the wake of his death. As explained by the Guardian, Violier's death came hours before Michelin was set to unveil its updated rankings. The New York Times reported those in the industry were left wondering if the high-pressure world of fine cuisine contributed to his death. Patricia Zizza, who worked alongside famous chefs and knew Violier, told the Times, "Chefs are in the theater and must produce great work, and there is strong pressure to maintain that excellence ... It requires an enormous amount of attention ... And it entails many sacrifices, including to one's personal life."

Other sources speculated that Violier might have been the victim of a wine Ponzi scheme. Following his death, a Swiss financial magazine alleged that Restaurant de l'Hôtel de Ville could have lost millions of dollars (converted to U.S. currency). In the aftermath, a shareholder of the restaurant denied it was affected or in financial trouble, per Eater.

There were additional factors that might have affected Violier, however. His dad died on April 8, 2015. Three months later, his mentor, Rochat, died. Lamenting these personal losses, Violier once stated, "Within weeks, I lost my two fathers" (via Forbes). Grief, of course, can weigh heavily on anybody's shoulders. Whatever may be the case, the important thing might not be to linger on Violier's death but rather to reflect upon his life.


Violier is missed by many, and more than a thousand people went to his funeral, per Eater. According to the New York Times, he is survived by his wife, who ran the restaurant alongside him, and their son. Several professional chefs also mourned Violier publicly. Swiss chef Fredy Girardet remembered him by saying, "He was a brilliant man" (via BBC). Meanwhile, Marc Veyrat, a three-star chef like Violier, claimed, "The planet has been orphaned by this exceptional chef" (from the Guardian). Despite his talent, Violier was said to be calm in the kitchen or even playful at times, as noted by Forbes. Hopefully, premier kitchens can honor his memory by replicating Violier's love of food and relaxed demeanor.

The Restaurant de l'Hôtel de Ville at Relais & Châteaux is still open. As of 2022, the establishment has maintained its three Michelin stars due to the creativity and quality of its food. The new chef, Franck Giovannini, likes to use locally sourced food, as did Violier. Giovannini also goes out of his way to carry on the successes of those who came before him, Violier included, per Fine Dining Lovers. In this way, Violier's culinary legacy lives on.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.