Parisian chef Taku Sekine has died by suicide, following multiple sexual assault accusations. He was 39. His family revealed the news on Tuesday.
Sekine, who is survived by partner Sarah Berger and their 2-year-old son, was known for his two Paris restaurants, Dersou, which was named Le Fooding’s Best Restaurant of 2016, and Cheval d’Or, which combined pan-Asian and Parisian cuisines. Sekine trained in Japan, and then, at age 30, moved to Paris and worked under some of France's most prestigious culinary talent, including Alain Ducasse, before opening his first restaurant, Dersou.
This past summer, Sekine was accused of sexual assault, although his name was not made public. On Sept. 6, French food website Atabula identified Sekine, after it ran a story in August called “Sexual violence in the kitchen: the big unpacking has begun." On Sept. 9, Sekine told Vanity Fair France that he planned to refute the allegations.
His family announced the news on Twitter, taking the opportunity to address how the accusations may have played a role in his death.
"The conditions of Taku SEKINE’s death are neither ordinary nor accidental. Taku SEKINE ended his life, swept away by a serious depression following his public questioning - on social networks and on a specialized site - with a recurrence akin to real relentlessness," the statement read.
The family said the media played a vital role in sullying Sekine’s reputation, which had an adverse effect on his mental health.
“Certain actors, in particular of the press, knowingly, in a few weeks and in the total absence of complaints, ruined the reputation of Taku SEKINE,” said the family.
“These malicious people, flouting any ethics and any rule of respect for the presumption of innocence, spread false gossip on social networks and organized a brutal campaign to destroy Taku SEKINE’s network, calling on every actor in the field of gastronomy to spread slander and warning them to work with him. Of course, they never dared to contact him directly.
“Deprived of his right to exercise his talent, Taku SEKINE, who lived for the kitchen, within two months locked himself in a violent spiral of depression.”
On Wednesday, Atabula defended the decision to identify Sekine.
"Taku Sekine's name has been mentioned several times, by different sources, relating much to similar facts," reporter Franck Pinay-Rabaroust wrote. "I contacted many people, some of whom were part of Taku Sekine's inner circle, to get as much information as possible. Each time, there was confirmation of the alleged facts."
There never was an official complaint lodged against Sekine and police were not looking into any accusations, reported the BBC.
If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.