It’s time for the world to know Jeremiah Tower: one of the original leaders in elevating California Cuisine, gastronomy and the man who turned the restaurant into a fabulous stage. It took a rebel like Anthony Bourdain to recognize and acknowledge Tower, who seemingly fell off the face of the planet, except for a brief, and puzzling return last year as executive chef of the newly reopened Tavern on the Green. In the new documentary, “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent”, produced by Bourdain and directed by Lydia Tenaglia, Tower, the elusive enigma finally gets to tell his amazing story. And a story it is, which begs the question, who’s going to snatch up the rights to make the narrative?
For those who don’t know, Jeremiah Tower partnered with iconic, Alice Waters and her uber groundbreaking restaurant, Chez Panisse, in the 70’s and became executive chef, taking her farm to table approach and elevated it with his sophisticated French culinary training. As the story goes they were a dynamic duo, but there was just one problem, Tower was gay and Waters had a thing for her genius chef. How their history went down is worth running out to see this film alone, but fortunately the glamour and drama were only getting started. Towers went on to open his own iconic San Francisco institution, Stars. Stars transformed the restaurant scene from a place to dine, to a see and be seen destination where the cuisine equalled the glamour. Towers was at the helm and literally became the first celebrity chef. Stars, for those who were fortunate to experience, will go down as an phenomenal institution of culinary history. I am fortunate to have taken my date for Senior Prom to experience the magic of Stars back in 1989
Director, Tenaglia infuses her film with a mesmerizing background of Tower’s childhood that includes parents who carted their son around the world taking lavish vacations, but who were completely absent in their son’s upbringing, both physically and emotionally. Tower grew up with the finer things in life, but the absence of any parenting. He became enthralled with the kitchen’s on major cruise lines, and ultimately developed a refined palette that led him to Harvard and finally culinary school.
Through current footage of Tower enjoying his seemingly tame, yet beautiful life in Merida, Mexico to insightful interviews from Bourdain, Mario Batali, Martha Stewart and Ruth Reichl, the documentary paints a vivid timeline of an original hero in the modern dining, cuisine and celebrity movement, here in America, that we know today, but who somehow disappeared into obscurity. Tenaglia peels away the mysterious layers of Tower’s colorful life that continues to intrigue today. When Tower speaks today, we see a man who hasn’t lost his fire at all, but instead a man who is still passionate about life and who has something to say.
“Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent” was made through CNN Films and was just picked up for distribution by Orchard. It will be released in early 2017.