You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myStatesman.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myStatesman.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myStatesman.com.

Statesman Exclusive

New squad will take up hundreds of Austin’s delayed rape investigations

Documentary is portrait of a chef seeking redemption


For someone who has had such an illustrious career, Jeremiah Tower may be the nation’s most unfortunate chef. As chef de cuisine of Chez Panisse from 1972 to 1978, he made the famed restaurant in Berkeley, California, what it was, but it’s only founder Alice Waters’ name that people associate with it.

Tower founded one of the country’s best restaurants — San Francisco’s Stars — and, just like the celestial bodies it was named after, it burned the brightest before it died. His streak of misfortune continued in 2014, when he was given the thankless task of remaking New York’s Tavern on the Green, a job from which he was unceremoniously fired after only five months.

But Tower is on a quest to reclaim his reputation with the help of Anthony Bourdain, who has reissued Tower’s memoir, via his book imprint, and produced the new documentary “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent,” directed by Lydia Tenaglia. It’s a languorous look at the ups and downs of a career gone awry, and the mysteries and confused culinary disciples left in the wake of the chef’s abrupt disappearance to Mexico for several years.

There is no shortage of famous faces who pop in to pay homage to Tower, including Mario Batali, Martha Stewart and Wolfgang Puck. Waters, who is seen in archival footage of Chez Panisse, declined to participate, which is no surprise. She is portrayed as someone who pined, romantically yet unrequitedly, for Tower, and then stole his recipes when his celebrity began to outshine hers. Tower says he “can still feel the outrage” at her.

He can still feel the outrage over a lot of things. The documentary delves deep into his childhood, with scenes of a young Jeremiah and his parents depicted by actors. He describes his dismay at being carted around the world, first class, by his disinterested parents; his grim, elite British boarding school; his lack of purpose at Harvard. It’s the whine of the privileged, with the exception of a genuinely disturbing allusion to an incident of sexual abuse by an Australian fisherman when Tower was a young child.

But growing up in hotel restaurants prepared him for the job at Chez Panisse. (His job interview: “Alice turned to me and said, ‘Do something to the soup.’”) Chez Panisse begot Stars, which attracted celebrities and drag queens, and made Tower into a celebrity himself (and, sometimes, a bit of a jerk). It came crashing down, in part, because of the San Francisco earthquake of 1989, and Tower didn’t resurface again from his Yucatán home until his disastrous Tavern on the Green gig.

As the documentary comes to a close, so, too, does that job — another disappointment, another fury — and a man few people ever truly knew retreats into himself once more.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Movies & TV

Bitters: What exactly they are, and how to use them in cocktails and more

Think of bitters like the spice rack of the cocktail world. That's the first thing Hunter Bryant, bar manager at Haven in Tampa, tells me when I sidle up to the restaurant's bar on a recent weekday for a Bitters 101 lesson. It instantly helps me understand the allure of the alcoholic extracts.  Like most people, I was familiar with bitters, those...
The Head and the Heart sing for heavy hearts at ACL taping
The Head and the Heart sing for heavy hearts at ACL taping

The Head and the Heart tape an episode of “Austin City Limits” at ACL Live on Monday, May 22, 2017.
UT streams turtle pond on Facebook Live for World Turtle Day
UT streams turtle pond on Facebook Live for World Turtle Day

Ask any current or former student of the University of Texas and they’d tell you turtles could be an honorary runner-up mascot to the Longhorns. Okay, maybe that’s just me. Since its creation in the 1930s, the turtle pond just north of the famous UT tower has provided a welcome stop for students and visitors to relax, nap or just reflect...
With bill in limbo, Feeding Texas launches donation page to pay off student lunch debt
With bill in limbo, Feeding Texas launches donation page to pay off student lunch debt

This has been the year of lunch shaming. Earlier this year, legislators in New Mexico passed an anti lunch-shaming bill, but lawmakers in Texas haven’t had as much luck.
Roger Moore’s James Bond was more suave, less serious
Roger Moore’s James Bond was more suave, less serious

  Word has come down that Roger Moore, best known for his turn playing James Bond, has died at the age of 89.
More Stories