I moved to San Francisco in 1998 and…forget Alcatraz, Fisherman’s Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge…there were two places I wanted to, not just go to, but experience: Chez Panisse and Stars.
They were both restaurants and they had something very much in common. Jeremiah Tower was the former chef of Chez Panisse and Jeremiah Tower was the current chef of Stars. Jeremiah Tower was also one of two people I had ever heard referred to as a celebrity chef (the other was Wolfgang Puck) and I had all the qualifications to be his groupie.
Tower was part of a movement in the United States…“a revolution” the press called it. There was talk about new ingredients, new recipes, but the real change was what was happening socially to the restaurant business. In the past, dinner in America had always been part of something else. It was dinner and a movie, dinner and the symphony, dinner and the game. In the nineties, dinner became the event, the be-all and the end-all, and Jeremiah Tower was the matinee idol, the superstar, the headline attraction.
I read the newspapers, poured through the magazines, checked out his guest shots on TV shows, and became fascinated by this larger-than-life character.
I thought he was British. He had that upper class air and style; carriage they call it. Very tall, very handsome, very elegant. Think David Niven, George Sanders, or Peter O’Toole. But he was born in Connecticut, graduated from Harvard. Supposedly had no food experience other than eating well when he got his first kitchen job at Chez Panisse. There he worked with owner Alice Waters and, apparently, had a romantic relationship with the woman who, deservedly, they called the queen of California cuisine.
But I never quite got that. But, then again, I’ve never been very good at putting people on teams. I was wrong about Niven, Sanders and O’Toole.
Anyway, though I frequently braved the bridge traffic to eat across the bay at Chez Panisse, I never did eat at Stars. When I arrived in San Francisco, I was told the restaurant…and Jeremiah Tower…were so “yesterday”. And, sure enough, less than one year later, the doors of Stars were locked and Jeremiah Tower was mysteriously missing.
So why I am I telling you all this? Did Jeremiah Tower end up in Mexico? Might he soon be cooking in San Miguel de Allende?
I found out what happened to the former superstar recently when I watched “Jeremiah Tower. The Last Magnificent.” You can find out too at Bellas Artes on February 21. To check out how to purchase tickets, details on special lunches and dinners and the rest of the fine print, go to https://www.foodinfilmsanmiguel.com/. There are at least three other “worth watching” movies in the Food in Films festival as well.
There’s even a rumor that Jeremiah Tower might be there in the flesh. Now that would be “magnificent”.