Interview with Jeremiah Tower
"I belatedly read Jeremiah's memoir, and I was stunned to see that for years I had been cooking food, much of it inspired by - either directly or indirectly - by things that Jeremiah had done, his recipes, that I'd been working in restaurants whose physical look and atmospherics and everything were his work. And I then asked myself - well, where did he go, and why did he not get the credit that he deserved? And I set out to tell that story in a film - in the beginning, anyway - to kind of address what I saw as a historical injustice." - Anthony Bourdain
Not many chefs will make me devolve into a giggling fangirl, but Jeremiah Tower is definitely that chef. Growing up in the heart of the California Cuisine movement, IN California, I had a unique opportunity to see the effects of this masterful chef's work all around me. I've never appreciated his efforts more after attending an exclusive screening of the movie, Jeremiah Tower, The Last Magnificient - hosted by the gentleman himself.
The best word I can think to describe him is enigmatic. He really has an electric energy that lights up an entire room, and he makes each person within it feel equally important. It was instantly apparent that he was instantly at ease in his persona before the eager crowd, both to learn from this master chef and to eat the food he would prepare that day - most notably the warm shrimp cocktail with Mezcal Sacrificio Reposado which dazzled in its simplicity and bright flavors (it can be found here).
When I met Sarah Carleton, we were both in the front row of his cooking demonstration at Crave Northwest. We knew the significance of this incredible man and accomplished chef coming to our little city, and were eager to learn more about the legendary and often reclusive chef. We met briefly the night before, but truly connected as we waited aside the stage when Mr. Tower offered to pour us a shot of the delicious mezcal he had created the shrimp cocktail with, and of course we jumped at the opportunity. This led to a lovely conversation with him about the beauty of coastal California, sea otters, and his love of fresh ingredients. His trailblazing efforts in the farm-to-table movement made an impact on every chef in America, many of whom are still unknowingly channeling his vision today.
(This fantastic article by Adriana Janovich of the Spokesman review captures a wonderful picture of his significance.)
After our moment of being star struck and inspired, we realized we both had plans to go to the screening of his new movie, Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent, the very next day. We were there with only a handful of other attendees, and it gave us the unique opportunity to watch this deeply personal documentary with Jeremiah and ask him questions about his influences, accomplishments and future plans. In his classically articulate, unendingly charming manner, he navigated our questions with ease and created an experience that added newly discovered layers to the film. (See the full video of our interview here.)
He seems to be romantically addicted to the impossible, and that makes him truly magnificent. It's easy to accomplish tasks that are deemed achievable, but to take something on that seems doomed to fail, that takes grit and imagination.
Asking him about what his singular most standout achievement or experience that he had, he said it was definitely that day in 1983 when he intended to do a snack lunch for journalists sponsored by the cranberry board, where he first realized that what he was doing was truly significant - where he realized that he would get what he always wanted, which was success for his restaurant and a stratospheric trajectory for his career.
Here's to you, Mr. Tower, and your stunning, deeply deserved comeback.
The Spokane Culinary Arts Guild works to establish an integrated social and professional network across Washington and Idaho where local food enthusiasts, chefs, farms and restaurant professionals can connect, collaborate and find the resources they need to thrive within local food webs that stimulate stronger local economies, encourage social equity and sustain our natural resources. It is our mission to recognize exceptional restaurants and industry partners in our region, and acknowledge superior business practices, concepts and achievements in our local community.