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Callum Keith Rennie
Both a biopic of a complicated man and an exploration of the gathering forces that converged to shape a new American cuisine and create the cult of "celebrity chef"... A consummate hedonist, Jeremiah Tower's career spans the riotous sexual revolution of the 70's to the high rolling "greed-is-good" spirit of the '80s. Key interviews with celebrities & celebrity chefs cement Tower's influence on today's food culture and reveal how he transformed the restaurant industry and in the process changed the way we eat.
The story relates that Jeremiah studied Architecture at Harvard until he was 30 and then was supposedly cut off financially by his family. There is no information at all about his parents or family, except they were wealthy and often traveled first class around the world with Tower in tow, but left to his own devices.
Wikipedia states his father was a managing director for a film sound company, and that Jeremiah went to school in Australia, Connecticut, England, and at Harvard, and that when Jeremiah's grandfather died, Jeremiah was cut off financially.
The film gives us Tower as a person emerging without family or connections at the age of 30, moving to California and getting a job at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. The film jumps from Jeremiah leaving Chez Panisse and starting up the fabulously successful Stars Restaurant in San Francisco.
According to Wiki, after leaving Chez Panisse he spent the next 6 years working at various restaurants in the Bay area."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. In 1984 Tower opened Stars Restaurant, his passion and greatest success.
According to wiki Tower also "opened branches of Stars restaurant in Oakville (Napa Valley), Palo Alto, Manila, and Singapore." He was also busy with a number of other ventures according to wiki including "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, and 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, but the new owners closed the restaurant in 1999.
The film tries to give the impression that Tower was a man of mystery who disappeared from the world after leaving Stars for unknown reasons. But it is more likely his multiple ventures were ultimately financially unsustainable.
Wiki also has some information on his whereabouts during his years out of the spotlight. "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."
The thing that I get from this movie is there were a lot of holes in the story. In many ways I get the impression that Tower manufactured much of his own history, or lack of it. Apparently he was a motivated and talented chef, but overextended himself in business and wound up being able to pack up all his possessions in 4 hours and place them in two bags in a pickup truck.
While the film seems like an interesting love letter to Tower from Bourdain, it just reeks of BS to me. It portrays him as a sort of Great Gatsby, a man of wealth and taste and mystery. In fact he lived a life of great pretense, success and failure. The most honest moment in the movie seems to be when he says at the end, I'm writing a book, about how to be a well mannered idiot.
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