While a number of celebrity chefs dot the food and television landscape, some were never granted the same attention that others have now established. Jeremiah Tower was one of those chefs. Rising to prominence during the ’70s and ’80s, Tower was not only an outstanding chef, but a force behind bringing a new kind of American cuisine to the attention of the world. He was also one of the first chefs to gain recognition, instead of just being the nameless person within the kitchen of a popular restaurant. Success didn’t last long enough though, and Tower dropped out of the spotlight entirely until he attempted to make a return by working at the famous Tavern on the Green restaurant.
Honestly, there’s very little in Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent that you won’t see in just about every other documentary of some world renowned chef. Tower is exactly what you would expect him to be. A little egotistical, a bit snobby, ready to push back against those who doubt him, and always quick to chew out those who don’t meet his strict demands in the kitchen. The one aspect that manages to elevate this doc above others is the very interesting childhood and early years of Tower.
Where many subjects would work their way up from nothing, Tower was born into a very rich family who essentially ignored him. He talks of glamorous vacations around the world where he was simply left on his own to entertain himself. This makes for some rather shocking stories at times, but does illustrate how Tower became the man that he did. He had no formal training, but benefited from the lavish lifestyle his parent’s offered him. His education came from watching and tasting, and it obviously served him well.
When Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent moves away from Tower’s youth and into the kitchen, things start to fall into some predictable grooves. His star rises to heights that can’t possibly be maintained before inevitably crashing down and being left with virtually nothing. It’s not that it isn’t interesting, it’s just that it’s so very typical of food documentaries such as this one. Watching Tower try to make his return by becoming executive chef at Tavern on the Green does provide a bit of a break from the normal, simply because of the way he seems to be handcuffed from actually making a significant change, but it’s just a tiny portion of the film.