Even though he’s one of the world’s most celebrated celebrity chefs, Jeremiah Tower is a solitary man. In the CNN-produced documentary Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent, he mostly travels around all by his lonesome, walking the Earth like Caine in Kung Fu. That’s how he’s been since he was a kid. His verbally abusive dad and alcoholic mom were the definition of negligent parents, too busy globe-trotting to keep tabs on him; once, when he went missing for a day, he was the victim of sexual abuse. But years of reading menus and comforting himself with exquisite cuisine would shape him to become a rebellious (but A-list) chef.
Magnificent runs down the major moments of Tower’s life: launching California cuisine in the Seventies when he came up with dishes at boho Berkeley eatery Chez Panisse; running his own restaurant in the Eighties with San Francisco hotspot Stars; and shocking the culinary world by taking the head-chef gig at the revamped Tavern on the Green in 2014, after spending many years living a life of quiet leisure overseas. The movie also features interviews from friends and admirers, including Martha Stewart, Mario Batali, and Anthony Bourdain (who also serves as an executive producer).
The dreamy, well-done Magnificent will inevitably be compared to Jiro Dreams of Sushi, that other doc about an obsessive, perfectionist chef. But more compelling is the vibe it shares with Man on Wire: Just like high-wire showman Philippe Petit, Tower is a brilliant, dedicated artist who has spent most of his life wowing people with his talents — but is ultimately always out there by himself.
Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent
Directed by Lydia Tenaglia
Opens April 21, Landmark Sunshine