- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 26, 2003

PARIS Bernard Loiseau, like many a great artist, was a fragile and sometimes tortured soul, a perfectionist tending to one of France's greatest passions: food.
Mr. Loiseau's apparent suicide Monday shocked France, plunged the gastronomic world into mourning and raised a storm of condemnation from fellow culinary masters, who blamed all-powerful food critics for pushing the celebrated chef toward despair.
Earlier this month, Mr. Loiseau's popular restaurant lost two points from 19 to 17 in a 20-point rating system used by an influential guide.
Mr. Loiseau, 52, was found dead in the bedroom of his home in Saulieu, near his three-star "Cote d'Or" restaurant in the Burgundy region southeast of Paris. A rifle was at his side.
Dijon Prosecutor Jean-Pierre Alacchi said suicide was "very probably" the cause of death, to be determined in an autopsy.
Mr. Loiseau's wife, Dominique, told France-2 television that her husband "had such a strong [moment of] doubt and, unfortunately, he was all alone for several hours and we don't know what went through his head."
The energetic Mr. Loiseau was among the first chefs to promote "nouvelle cuisine," lightening thick, creamy sauces and cooking various ingredients, like vegetables, separately to maximize their flavor.
"His name alone evokes all the perfection of the culinary art and the art of living," Culture Minister Jean-Jacques Aillagon said.
Mr. Loiseau, who had three children, also became an entrepreneur, with a line of frozen foods, a boutique near his restaurant and three eateries in Paris. He published numerous books and appeared on television.
Mr. Loiseau is the only French chef traded on the stock exchange, where shares were suspended yesterday until further notice.
"I'm like Yves Saint-Laurent," Mr. Loiseau once said, "I do both haute couture and ready-to-wear."
Amid it all, Mr. Loiseau managed to maintain his restaurant's top three-star rating, first awarded in 1991 by the benchmark Michelin Red Guide. But the Red Guide said it was forced to issue a statement Feb. 7 to stop all the rumors that Mr. Loiseau could be losing a prized star.
Mr. Loiseau did lose two points, going from 19 to 17, in the 20-point rating system of the GaultMillau. That guide has gained in prestige and power in recent years.
"He said, 'If I lose a star, I'll kill myself,'" said another three-star chef, Jacques Lameloise, who has a restaurant in Chagny in the Saone-et-Loire region.
Mr. Loiseau's death recalled the legendary 17th-century Francois Vatel, said to have killed himself over a failed meal at which King Louis XIV was the star guest.
"Bernard Loiseau, this great French chef, certainly had other problems," Patrick Moyenobe said on LCI television. "In no way can we imagine it was a grade, a simple grade, that could have taken his life."


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