Until a couple of days ago, I didn’t know this film existed, but it’s become my Must See movie of the month. Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent, produced by Anthony Bourdain, is an overdue look at the fascinating Jeremiah Tower.
Here’s the film’s official synopsis:
“Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent explores the remarkable life of Jeremiah Tower, one of the most controversial and influential figures in the history of American gastronomy. Tower began his career at the renowned Chez Panisse in Berkeley in 1972, becoming a pioneering figure in the emerging California cuisine movement. After leaving Chez Panisse, due in part to a famously contentious relationship with founder Alice Waters, Tower went on to launch his own legendary Stars Restaurant in San Francisco. Stars was an overnight sensation and soon became one of America’s top-grossing U.S. restaurants. After several years, Tower mysteriously walked away from Stars and then disappeared from the scene for nearly two decades, only to resurface in the most unlikely of places: New York City’s fabled but troubled Tavern on the Green. There, he launched a journey of self-discovery familiar to anyone who has ever imagined themselves to be an artist. Featuring interviews by Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain, Ruth Reichl and Martha Stewart, this delicious documentary tells the story of the rise and fall of America’s first celebrity chef, whose brash personality and culinary genius has made him a living legend.”
And here’s a recent interview with Jeremiah Tower and Anthony Bourdain, discussing the documentary on CBS This Morning:
Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent, fresh from the Tribeca Film Festival, is now playing at a single theatre in Los Angeles and a single theatre in New York, but will expand to another 11 cities on Friday, 28 April 2017, with many more venues to follow.
For a great look at the early days of Chez Panisse, you can’t do better than this excerpt from David Kamp’s book, The United States of Arugula: How We Became a Gourmet Nation which Vanity Fair published under the title “Cooking up a Storm”. Kamp combines a thoroughly researched look at the origins of Chez Panisse with gossipy stories about the drug-drenched environment and the complex sexual entanglements of the key players.
Feud: Bette and Joan, the first of Ryan Murphy’s accounts of famous “complicated” relationships, has just ended its season. He’s tackling the story of Prince Charles and Lady Diana next. If he’s at a loss for a third season, he should consider the story behind the decades-long debate about whether Tower or Alice Waters was most responsible for the rise of Chez Panisse to the first ranks of American restaurants.