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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 February, 2003, 17:44 GMT
Chef 'suicide' after critics' attack
Bernard Loiseau
Loiseau was regarded as one of France's greatest chefs
One of France's most celebrated chefs has apparently committed suicide after his flagship restaurant was downgraded in a top restaurant guide.

Bernard Loiseau was found dead at his country home, a hunting rifle by his side.

His death came a week after the renowned GaultMillau restaurant guide cut its rating for his Cote d'Or restaurant in Burgundy.

Now the critics themselves are facing the criticism - accused of exercising too much power, toying with the establishments they assess and ultimately pushing Loiseau over the edge.

"I think GaultMillau killed him. When you are leader of the pack and all of a sudden they cut you down, it's hard to understand, it hit him hard," restaurateur and friend Paul Bocuse said.

Other issues

But GaultMillau has rigorously defended its decision to reduce the score given to Loiseau's Cote d'Or restaurant from 19/20 last year, to 17/20 this, and insist that the chef had other problems that led to his death.

He said, 'If I lose a star, I'll kill myself
Restaurateur Jacques Lameloise

"As early as 2000, he told us that if he went from a score of 19 to 17, he would relish the challenge involved in returning to the peak," said GaultMillau director Patrick Mayenobe.

"This great chef certainly had other problems," he added.

A good rating from GaultMillau, or a maximum three-star rating from its rival the Michelin guide - which together are regarded as France's bibles of fine dining - is certain to ensure massive interest in any restaurant.

In fact there is such interest in the reviews that Michelin has recently begun announcing its star ratings ahead of schedule to curb the massive speculation that accompanies the results.

Playing God

But some culinary masters are complaining that the pressure is all too much.

"The critics play with us. They mark us up, they mark us down. I think that's what made him crack," Michelin-starred restaurateur Jacques Lameloise told Le Parisien newspaper.

Cote d'Or
His restaurant dropped two points in GaultMillau this year

Another three-star chef, Jacques Lameloise, recounted how Loiseau had told him how much his restaurant rating meant.

"He said, 'If I lose a star, I'll kill myself.'"

Now it seems the warning may have come true.

Loiseau was found dead on Monday of a gunshot wound to the head in the bedroom of his home in Saulieu, close to the three-starred Cote d'Or.

Family members and employees have suggested the 52-year-old chef committed suicide.

Loiseau's widow, Dominique, told a French television station that her husband had recently been very tired and had not taken a holiday in years.

And although the police continue to investigate the cause of death, a post mortem examination later on Tuesday is expected to confirm that Loiseau shot himself.

The news of his death sent shock waves throughout France.

An innovator in haute cuisine, Loiseau was reputed to be one of France's greatest chefs.

Along with Cote d'Or he owned the three famous Tante restaurants in Paris, a boutique in Burgundy and a frozen food line.

In 1998 his culinary group was listed on the stock exchange, making him the only chef in the world to become a public company.

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