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Thu, Feb 27, 2003 - Page 12 News List

French chefs rail against the power of culinary critics


France's top chefs railed on Tuesday against the pressures of their job and the power of the critics after one of this food-obsessed country's culinary giants committed suicide, apparently because of a bad review.

Bernard Loiseau, whose restaurant and inn La Cote d'Or in Saulieu, Burgundy, is one of the undisputed temples of Gallic haute cuisine, was found dead in his bedroom on Monday afternoon, his hunting rifle by his side.

A police postmortem has yet to determine the official cause of death, but friends and relatives of the 52-year-old superchef were in no doubt that he had shot himself. "He tried to do too much," said his wife, Dominique. "He was worn out; he'd just had enough."

Others were harsher. Loiseau, they pointed out, had managed to retain his priceless three stars in the Michelin Red Guide, but ended up losing a devastating two points in France's rival foodie bible, GaultMillau, falling from 19 out of 20 last year to 17 out of 20 in this year's guide.

"Bravo, GaultMillau, you've won," declared the legendary Lyon chef Paul Bocuse, 80. "Your verdict has cost a man's life. We cannot let ourselves be manipulated like this: I'll give you a star, I'll take one away; I'll award you two points, I'll deduct them. The profession will respond."

Another tri-stellar restaurateur, Jacques Lameloise, said Loiseau had once told him that if he lost a star he would not hesitate to commit suicide. "The critics play with us," he said. "They mark us up, they mark us down. I think that's what made him crack."

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