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[Deathwatch] Bernard Loiseau, chef, 52

Top Chef in Apparent Suicide After Rating Lowered

PARIS (Reuters) - The pronouncements of France's mighty food guides
have always been able to make or break a restaurant in this
food-obsessed country.
But the critics themselves faced criticism Tuesday after top chef
Bernard Loiseau was found shot dead in an apparent suicide following
the decision by the renowned GaultMillau guide to cut its rating for
his flagship restaurant in Burgundy.

A self-styled perfectionist who once said he wanted to be to food what
Brazilian (news - web sites) star Pele was to soccer, 52-year-old
Loiseau was found dead at his home in the Burgundy town of Saulieu
Monday afternoon, his own hunting rifle at his side.

Police sources said an autopsy later Tuesday would establish the
circumstances of his death. While few doubted any other conclusion than
suicide, GaultMillau vigorously defended itself against the accusations
flung its way, saying Loiseau had other problems.

Police provided no immediate details. Famed restaurateur Paul Bocuse
said his friend was devastated with the 17 out of 20 awarded to his
Cote d'Or establishment in the 2003 guide, down from the 19 out of 20
score of last year.

"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," Bocuse, high priest of sophisticated "nouvelle cuisine" cooking,
told LCI television.

But GaultMillau director Patrick Mayenobe said: "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.

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

A good rating by GaultMillau or -- the ultimate accolade -- three stars
from its illustrious rival the Michelin guide, is guaranteed to boost
sales for any restaurant in France's rarefied world of haute cuisine.

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

Loiseau was among a handful of established stars who saw their scores
docked by GaultMillau in its 2003 edition published this month. One
critic welcomed the downgrades as an injection of reality in a "world
brimming with overblown egos."