Bernard Loiseau, one of France's most stellar chefs, was found shot dead in his home yesterday, his hunting rifle by his side.

According to speculation in the restaurant world, a recent demotion in the Gault-Millau 2003 Guide – the authoritative guide to good food and wine – from 19 to 17 out of a possible 20 points, led the renowned perfectionist to commit suicide.

A fellow chef was widely quoted as saying Loiseau – referring to his coveted three-star Michelin rating – told him, ‘If I lose a star I will kill myself’, while veteran French chef Paul Bocuse said his friend had been devastated by his 17-point score.

‘I think Gault-Millau killed him,’ Bocuse said in a television interview. ‘When you are leader of the pack and all of a sudden they cut you down, it’s hard to understand.’

Gault-Millau’s director Patrick Mayenobe rejects any claims that his publication bears responsibility in the matter. ‘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.’

Loiseau’s three-star restaurant, at the Hotel de la Côte d’Or, in Saulieu, Burgundy, was the cornerstone of his empire. During the 1990s, he bought several restaurants in Paris, published a number of cookbooks and launched a range of supermarket frozen meals.

Loiseau became the only chef in the world to become a public listed company when the Bernard Loiseau Group was listed on the Paris stock exchange in 1998.

Police have not confirmed the cause of death. The results of an autopsy are expected to be published later this week.

Written by Natasha Hughes25 February 2003