Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent ( Lydia Tenaglia, 2016) USA/MEXICO
Viewed at Fiesta 5 theater during SBIFF 2017.
A biopic about a celebrity chef that hasn’t been given his due, Jeremiah Tower. Director Lydia Tenaglia did a great job piecing together his history from living in isolated luxury to his most recent business relationship with Tavern on the Green in NYC.
Tower grew up with very wealthy parents that seemed totally uninterested in being parents. He spent most of life along eating delicious foods. He created an alternate reality for himself where he was the king of his own food kingdom. He studied to be an architect but ultimately his love of fine food brought him to working in some great kitchens.
There was a lot of footage of Jeremiah’s days working in San Francisco at a famous restaurant, Chez Panisse, in the 1970s. It was the height of the sexual revolution and this kitchen was full of lust and sensuality. He was known for being willing to sleep with almost everyone that he fancied, regardless of gender.
During this period of time, Tower took a more prominent role in the restaurant and starting creating the menus. He used classic French recipes and the crowds came. Some time toward the end of the 1970s, he realized there was a wealth of wines and local foods in California that he could feature at the restaurant.
Tower is actually single-handed responsible for the popularity and the legitimacy of California wines. He also pioneered the locally sourced food movement. His popularity ended his relationship with Chez
Eventually, Jeremiah opened his own restaurant in downtown San Francisco, Stars, that became very popular and was the place to be seen. Because of the earthquake of 1989, the restaurant lost a lot of customers and eventually went out of business. In the meantime, Tower tried to franchise Star’s popularity and opened restaurants all over the world.
Tower, known as being difficult to deal with, ended up having to sell the whole chain and went into a retirement in Mexico. We do get see him shopping and cooking at his home in Mexico.
In 2012, he was approached by some new owners of Tavern on the Green in NYC to come head up their new venture of resurrecting the restaurant to its place of prominence in NYC. Tower went to NYC and tried to help the restaurant but the owners weren’t really versed in fine dining and didn’t understand Tower’s recommendations. He went back to Mexico and go back into retirement.
This film was interesting and kept my attention even though I didn’t know anything about him personally but know of the trends he inspired. There were interviews with other famous chefs like Mario Battali and Anthony Bourdain who discussed Tower’s impact on cuisine in America.
This film is perfect for a foodie and someone interested in the modern American food scene. The cinematography and scenery were beautiful.