Jeremiah Tower (born 1942) is an American celebrity chef who, along with Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck, has been credited with pioneering the culinary style known as California cuisine. A food lover from childhood, he had no formal culinary education before beginning his career as a chef.
|Born||1942 (age 74–75)
Stamford, Connecticut, US
|Education||Riverview/St. Ignatius (Sydney, Australia); Parkside School, Surrey (England); Loomis School, Connecticut; Harvard College, BA; Harvard Graduate School of Design, MA Architecture|
|Cooking style||California Cuisine|
Tower was born in Stamford, Connecticut, son of a managing director of an international film sound equipment company. He was educated at Saint Ignatius' College, Riverview (Sydney, Australia); Parkside School, Surrey (England); Loomis Chaffee, Connecticut; Harvard University and the Harvard Graduate School of Design. After earning a master's degree in architecture from Harvard University, he had intended to pursue design of underwater structures in Hawaii, because of his obsession with finding the lost city of Atlantis. After his grandfather died, Tower, who was used to being taken care of and supported, found himself out of money and in need of employment.
Inspired by a berry tart he had eaten at the then-unknown Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California, he applied for a job there in 1972. Alice Waters and her partners hired him for his demonstrable skills and brazenness when it came to recreating great French traditional food. Within a year, he became an equal partner with Waters and the others. He was in full charge of the kitchen, the writing of the menus, and the promotion of the restaurant.
Tower left Chez Panisse in 1978, after philosophical and business disagreements with the majority of the Board and with Waters in particular (she and they rejected his idea to open a Panisse Cafe). He worked at the Ventana Inn at Big Sur beginning 1978, taught briefly at the California Culinary Academy, and revived the dying Balboa Cafe in San Francisco in 1981. In 1982, he became head chef and co-owner at Berkeley's Santa Fe Bar and Grill (a restaurant that was later a springboard for fellow Chez Panisse alum, Mark Miller, to open the Coyote Cafe in Santa Fe, New Mexico and a string of Southwestern-themed restaurants throughout the United States).
In 1984, Tower opened his own restaurant, Stars, in San Francisco, in partnership with the Sante Fe Bar and Grill investors. Numerous American chefs worked at Stars, among them Mark Franz (Farallon), Mario Batali, George Francisco ([Voodoo Bacon]), Loretta Keller (Bizou / Coco500), Joey Altman (Bay Cafe / Wild Hare), Michael Shrader (N9NE), Brendan Walsh (Arizona 206, Elms Inn), Chris Colburn (The Chanticleer), and Ron Garrido (Avalon in Eureka), as well as pastry chefs Tim Grable, Emily Luchetti, Hollyce Snyder and Jerry Traunfeld. Stars was among the top-grossing restaurants in the Bay Area.(New York Magazine, May 9, 1988) Tower opened branches of Stars restaurant in Oakville (Napa Valley), Palo Alto, Manila, and Singapore.
He owned the Peak Cafe in Hong Kong in the 1990s, as well as various related ventures in San Francisco including a more casual cafe, an upscale bistro, and a kitchenware shop. As his fame grew he licensed his name out, and began to earn celebrity endorsement contracts, including one for Dewar's Scotch. In 1998, Tower sold a part interest in the Stars restaurants to a Singapore real estate company. (The new owners closed the Stars restaurants after two years of operation.)
Tower moved to Manila for a year, then to New York City for four years, then Italy and Mexico. In 2014, he was hired as executive chef of Tavern on the Green in New York City, but he left in April 2015, after six months.
In 2016, the biographical documentary Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent, by Anthony Bourdain and Zero Point Zero productions, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. The 100-minute film was bought by The Orchard for US distribution in the spring of 2017. On November 12, 2017 the film was broadcast on CNN.
In 2017, Tower appeared on Top Chef, the Rick Stein TV show “Mexico” for BBC, the CRAVE wine and food festival, Spokane, Washington, guest of honor at Chef’s Roll, Miami Beach, and as a judge at the Basque Culinary Center World Awards, Mexico City.
Tower's first book, New American Classics, won a James Beard Foundation Award in 1986 for "Best American Regional Cookbook". In 1996, Tower won the James Beard Foundation's award for "Outstanding Chef of the Year".