Deep State Risks for Celebrity Chefs

“An ounce of sauce covers a multitude of sins.” ~ Anthony Bourdain

Famous cooks seem to live short lives.

Tafari Campbell (1978–2023)

On July 23, 2023, former White House Chef and Obama personal cook Tafari Campbell drowned on Martha’s Vineyard—on the Obama country estate. The police ruled it an accident while paddleboarding on Edgartown Great Pond. He was 45 years old. Tafari Campbell had cooked as sous chef for two presidents in the White House (2007-2016) and continued to cook for the Obamas as their personal chef. The Obama daughters were on the island when the tragedy happened.

The Obamas’ chef, Tafari Campbell, was known for his food and discretion (Washington Post)

Tafari Campbell: Police say nothing suspicious with chef’s drowning as Obama daughters leave island (Independent)

Dots To Be Connected (

He is not the only White House chef to have died early.

Walter Scheib (1954–2015)

Walter Scheib, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), served as the White House executive chef for 11 years (1994 to 2005) under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. It was Hillary Clinton who hired him. He was found “partially submerged” off a hiking trail in the mountains near Taos, New Mexico. Scheib was 61 years old and according to the autopsy had died from drowning.

Mr. Scheib was actively involved in the City of Refuge project in Atlanta helping homeless and abused residents.

Walter Scheib on Wikipedia

Walter Scheib, White House chef who served two presidents, dies at 61 (Washington Post)

Missing White House chef found dead on hiking trail (New York Post)

Another chef who cooked for the rich and famous, including President Obama, was best-selling author, TV host, and celebrity chef—

Anthony Bourdain (1956–2018)

Bourdain, too, attended the Culinary Institute of America, graduating in 1978, and for many years was executive chef at Brasserie Les Halles. He was widely regarded as the “rock star of the culinary world,” outspoken and extravagant. He also was a firm critic of sexual harassment in the restaurant industry and in Hollywood, in particular during the #MeToo movement and Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Bourdain was found dead in his hotel room near Colmar, France, where he was filming an episode for his TV food show Parts Unknown. His death was judged a suicide by hanging in an “impulsive act.” He was 61.

Anthony Bourdain on Wikipedia

Episode of Parts Unknown with Barack Obama in Vietnam

Anthony Bourdain’s last interview: Late chef lambastes the Clintons, Harvey Weinstein

How Did Anthony Bourdain Die? Inside The Beloved Chef’s Troubled Final Days

Suicide by hanging was also the cause of death of celebrity chef—

Homaro Cantu (1976–2015)

Cantu was known for kooky ideas in the kitchen and was a proponent of molecular gastronomy, a scientific approach to cooking from the perspective of chemistry and physics. He was not only a cook but also an inventor, with more than 100 patents; he even signed contracts with NASA for some of his devices.

“There’s a fine line between real and synthetic,” he told the AP in 2006. “Real is something that occurs in nature. Synthetic is something that does not. But what if you recreate something on a molecular level that’s exact to something that’s real? Does it become synthetic, or is it real?”

At the time of his death, he was planning to open a brewery, which promised to take his career to new heights. He was 38 years old when he was found hanging in the building he was renovating for this purpose.

Homaro Cantu on Wikipedia

Famous chef Homaro Cantu found dead in restaurant (Fox News)

The life and death of Homaro Cantu, the genius chef who wanted to change the world (Guardian)

“Apparent suicide” again was the cause of the early death of—

Benoît Violier (1971–2016)

The French-Swiss three-star Michelin chef was hailed as “the world’s best chef” only a month before he was found dead at his home of a “self-inflicted gunshot” in January 2016. Since 2012, Violier and his wife had led the famous Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville in Crissier, near Lausanne, Switzerland, which served celebrities, actors, politicians, and business folks. He was 44 when he was found by police at his home next to his hunting rifle.

The Crissier restaurant is a unique and stellar venue originally established by one of only four “Chefs of the Century”—Swiss celebrity chef Frédy Girardet (who is still alive). Girardet, who was the teacher and a friend of Violier, said that he could “see no motive for such an act” of suicide, given that the brilliant cook was at the pinnacle of success.

Benoît Violier on Wikipedia

Frédy Girardet on Wikipedia

Violier’s predecessor as owner of the famous restaurant in Crissier, and the direct successor to Girardet—who sold the establishment in 1996—was celebrity chef

Philippe Rochat (1953–2015)

Rochat was one of the best chefs in the world—highly praised by the Michelin and Gault et Millau restaurant guides and one of only two non-French chefs admitted as Membre de la chambre syndicale de la Haute Cuisine Française. He had been in early retirement for three years and was known to be in perfect physical condition as an enthusiastic cyclist. He died at age 61, fainting during a cycling tour in the Lausanne region.

Philippe Rochat on Wikipedia

Star chef Philippe Rochat dies (Swissinfo)

Le chef étoilé Philippe Rochat est décédé, ses amis lui rendent hommage

Bernard Loiseau (1951–2003)

Violier’s ”apparent suicide” is reminiscent of an earlier case of a stellar French chef, Bernard Loiseau, who was reported to have ended his life by a self-inflicted gunshot allegedly after the Gault et Millau guide downgraded his restaurant from 19 to 17 points in Saulieu. The French Wikipedia entry (but not the English version) reports that his wife Dominique Loiseau denied that money issues or the loss of a restaurant rating would have caused him to take his own life. Loiseau was 52.

Bernard Loiseau on Wikipedia

Bernard Loiseau on the French Wikipedia

EXCLUSIF. Dominique Loiseau : “les vraies raisons du suicide de mon mari” (Le Point)

In the context of the Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville in Crissier, we should also include—

Gray Kunz (1955–2020)

Kunz apprenticed in Crissier under master chef Frédy Girardet (mentioned above) and later became one of the most famous celebrity chefs in New York, where he cooked in the luxurious Lespinasse. He died of a stroke at the age of 65.

Gray Kunz on Wikipedia

Legendary Chef Gray Kunz Has Died

To Commemorate the Death of Gray Kunz, a Timeline of His Work at Lespinasse

Gary Rhodes (1960–2019)

Michelin-star cook, television chef, and restaurant owner Gary Rhodes was known for his revival of British classic cuisine. In addition to owning several of his own fine dining restaurants, he also worked as a personal chef for the establishment, “having cooked for everyone from Tom Hanks to Princess Diana” (the Independent writes). He had received the Order of the British Empire, the highest recognition for special achievements in the arts, sciences, and civil service.

Rhodes died in Dubai, where he ran two restaurants; he was in the process of filming a new TV series when he suddenly collapsed. His death at age 59 was the result of a subdural hematoma, which is normally involved with a head injury.

Gary Rhodes dead: Masterchef and Hell’s Kitchen star dies in Dubai, aged 59 (Independent)

Gary Rhodes on Wikipedia

Floyd Cardoz (1960–2020)

Indian-American celebrity chef Floyd Cardoz was known as the “godfather of modern Indian cuisine.” He was a Top Chef winner and worked at the Lespinasse under Gray Kunz (who died in the same month, see above). In March 2020, after returning from a trip to India, he admitted himself to the hospital because he felt feverish and was “hugely anxious” about his state of health at the height of the early pandemic scare. He died a week later, at age 59, “of Covid-19.”

Floyd Cardoz on Wikipedia

Floyd Cardoz, 59, Dies; Gave American Fine Dining an Indian Flavor (New York Times)

Finally, we will list—

Cristie Schoen Codd (1976–2015)

The young actress and celebrity chef and her husband were murdered when she was pregnant with their first child. Cristie Schoen Codd was born in Spain as the daughter of parents who worked in the U.S. military. She became a celebrity chef, cooking for Hollywood sets and famous actors such as Will Smith and Ben Kingsley. She and her husband went missing in March 2015; their remains were later found on the murderer’s property and in his woodstove. Cristie Schoen Codd was 38 years old.

Man Pleads Guilty To Killing Food Network Star And Her Family

Cristie Schoen Codd’s Devastating 2015 Death

Cristie Schoen on Wikipedia

Each of these chefs cooked for very famous and politically connected individuals.

This post may be updated when appropriate.

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