Bernard Daniel Jacques Loiseau
13 January 1951
|Died||24 February 2003 (aged 52)|
|Cause of death||Suicide by self-inflicted gunshot|
|Education||La Maison Troisgros|
Bernard Daniel Jacques Loiseau (13 January 1951 – 24 February 2003) was a French chef. He died by suicide by self-inflicted gunshot in 2003 when newspaper reports hinted that his restaurant might lose its 3-star status. This decision was likely due to increased bouts of clinical depression.
Loiseau was born in Chamalières, in the Auvergne region of central France. He decided to become a chef as a teenager, apprenticing at the famous La Maison Troisgros run by the brothers Jean and Pierre Troisgros in Roanne between 1968 and 1971.
In 1972, Loiseau began working for restaurateur Claude Verger at La Barrière de Clichy, and was soon hailed as a prodigy by the Gault Millau guide, a proponent of the nouvelle cuisine style that emphasized lightness and freshness in contrast to the cuisine classique of traditional French gastronomy. When Verger bought the formerly prestigious La Côte d'Or of Saulieu in 1975, he installed Loiseau as chef and soon stood aside to allow him to develop a highly personal style of cuisine. Loiseau bought La Côte d'Or from Verger in 1982, and the well known Michelin Guide bestowed the coveted 3-star rating on his establishment in 1991. His fanatical attention to detail, frenetic work ethic, and discerning palate, propelled him to the top of his profession, and earned him a knowledgeable and loyal, but unforgiving and demanding clientele.
Bernard Loiseau established Bernard Loiseau SA in 1998, and was the first star restaurateur to establish the concept of having one's restaurant incorporated and traded. At the time of his death, he was the only French chef traded on the stock exchange. Under Bernard Loiseau SA, Loiseau published numerous books, established a line of frozen foods, and opened three eateries in Paris, in addition to running La Côte d'Or and its adjoining boutique shop.
The French government awarded him its highest honour, the decorations of Chevalier (Knight) de la Légion d'honneur in 1994, Chevalier (Knight) de l'Ordre national du Mérite in 1986, Officier (Officer) de l'Ordre national du Mérite in 2002 and Chevalier du Mérite agricole.
In the late 1990s, a new form of Asian-inspired "fusion cuisine" swept France, catering to an international corporate class and pleasing trend-driven "foodies" (a neologism of the movement), which Loiseau resisted. The prevailing notion, however, was that the pre-eminent Loiseau's grip was slipping — that his cuisine and philosophy were being superseded by newer trends. He was by this time deeply in debt, and suffered from bouts of increasingly severe clinical depression.
Loiseau committed suicide on 24 February 2003, shooting himself in the head with a shotgun after a full day of work in his kitchen. The Gault Millau guide had recently downgraded his restaurant from 19/20 to 17/20, and there were also rumors in Le Figaro that the Michelin Guide was planning to remove one of La Côte d'Or's three stars.
Loiseau had made a life's ambition of becoming a 3-star chef, a goal which had required 17 years of hard work at La Côte d'Or to achieve. After his death, three-star chef Jacques Lameloise said Loiseau had once confided, "If I lose a star, I'll kill myself". While it was later reported that Loiseau was despondent over his debt issues and decreasing patronage at his restaurant, Michelin still received blame in some accounts.
As of 2021 La Côte d'Or remains a two-star establishment in the hands of executive chef Patrick Bertron.
- Rudolph Chelminski, 2005. The Perfectionist : Life and Death in Haute Cuisine (Gotham/Penguin). Biography
- William Echikson, 1995. "Burgundy Stars: A Year in the Life of a Great French Restaurant" (Little, Brown).
- The New Yorker, November 23, 2009, p. 46.
- "Michelin guide 'covered up criticism of top French suicide chef'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
- "French Furor Over Chef's Apparent Suicide". CBS News. 2003-02-25.
- "Décret du 13 juillet 1994 portant promotion et nomination". JORF. 1994 (162): 10178. 1994-07-14. PREX9411369D. Retrieved 2009-03-15.
- "Décret du 30 avril 2002 portant promotion et nomination". JORF. 2002 (102): 7882. 2 May 2002. PREX0205524D. Retrieved 2009-03-15.
- Leopold, Todd (July 28, 2005). "The master chef who killed himself: A story of a star 'Perfectionist'". CNN.
- Ripley, Amanda (2003-03-02). "Recipe for Tragedy". Time. Archived from the original on March 19, 2007. Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- The New Yorker 2003/05/12
- Henry Samuel (23 January 2013). "Michelin guide 'covered up criticism of top French suicide chef'". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 January 2013.
- Rémy, Pascal (2004). L'inspecteur se met à table. Equateur. ISBN 2-84990-006-0.
- "Le Relais Bernard Loiseau - Saulieu : a Michelin Guide restaurant". www.viamichelin.com. Retrieved 2019-03-12.
- Molly Moore and Corinne Gavard (2007-08-14). "A Taste of Whimsy Wows the French". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-08-14.
- "Parlez-vous Francais". Yahoo!. 2007-05-22. Retrieved 2007-05-23.