Benoit Violier
Benoit Violier's Swiss restaurant was judged the world's best in December 2015Getty

Celebrated chef Benoit Violier, whose restaurant was named the best in the world, has been found dead in an apparent suicide. He was 44-years-old.

Violier ran the Restaurant de l'Hotel de Ville in Crissier, near the city of Lausanne in Switzerland. Boasting three Michelin stars, in December 2015 it came top in France's prestigious La Liste of the world's best 1,000 eateries.

Swiss police said Violier, who was born in France, appeared to have shot himself. In a statement, they said his family had asked for privacy while they mourned. Violier took over at the restaurant with his wife in 2012, after the retirement of his mentor, Phillipe Rochat. Rochat died six months ago, after falling ill while cycling.

A keen hunter, Violier was reknown for his game dishes. Celebrating last year's win, awarded by France's foreign ministry as an alternative to the UK's World's Best 50 Restaurants prize, Violier said it was an "exceptional honour".

Fellow chefs tweeted their shock at news of the death and expressed their condolences. French chef Pierre Gagnaire tweeted: "My thoughts go out to Benoit Violier's family. Very sad news about an extremely talented chef."

In 2003, French chef Bernard Loiseau killed himself after a newspaper report hinted his restaurant may lose its three Michelin star status. Violier's death came hours before Michelin was due to unveil its 2016 edition.

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