Jeremiah Tower


Tower was born in Stamford, Connecticut, son of a managing director of an international film sound equipment company. A food lover, he had no formal culinary education before beginning his career as a chef. After earning a Masters 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. Out of money because his grandfather died and Towers was used to being taken care of and supported, and of all things, inspired by a berry tart he had eaten there, he applied for a job in 1972 at the then-unknown Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. Alice Waters and her partners hired him for his skills and his brazen confidence at recreating the greatness of past French traditional food. Within a year he became equal partners with Waters and the others and was in full charge of the kitchen, writing the menus, and the promotion of the restaurant.

Tower left Chez Panisse in 1978, after philiosophical and business disagreements with the majority of the Board and with Waters in particular (she and they rejecting his idea to open a Panisse Cafe), and worked at the Ventana Inn at Big Sur beginning 1978, taught briefly at the [[California Culinary Academy], revived the dying the Balboa Cafe in San Francisco in 1981, then in 1982 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. It was an overnight sensation. Numerous American chefs worked at Stars, among them Mark Franz (of Farallon), Mario Batali, Loretta Keller (of Bizou / Coco500), Joey Altman (Bay Cafe / Wild Hare), Michael Shrader (N9NE), Brendan Walsh (Arizona 206, Elms Inn), and pastry chefs Tim Grable, Emily Luchetti, Hollyce Snyder and Jerry Traunfeld. The restaurant was among the top-grossing restaurants in the United States for close to a decade. Tower opened branches of Stars restaurant in Oakville (Napa Valley), Palo Alto, Manila, and Singapore. He owned and opened The famously successful 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. After the earthquake of October 1989, and the closing of the Civic Center where it was located for 2 years – and Stars extra 200 customers per day from the govt offices and courts, Ballet, Opera, symphony all relocated – Tower sold the flagship and its group to a Singapore real estate company. . Tower sold the Stars group in June 1998 and moved to Manila to open another Stars (after Singapore), after declaring he was done with California, The new owners closed the Stars restaurants after 2 years of operating them. After a year in Manila he moved to New York City for 4 years, after which he moved to Italy and Mexico, where he lives as of 2009 and devotes his time to restoring old colonial houses, SCUBA diving, writing a novel, and looking for unoxidized champagne.

Publications and awards

Tower’s first book, New American Classics, won a James Beard Foundation Award in 1986 for “Best American Regional Cookbook.” He has published several other successful cookbooks. His 2003 memoir, What I Saw (and Cooked) at the American Culinary Revolution, is a colorful account of his side of the story surrounding the invention of California and New American cuisine and the rise and fall of his restaurant empire.

In 1996, Tower won the Foundation’s Award for “Chef of the Year.”


^ a b Kim Severson (September 29, 1999). “The rise and fall of a star: How the king of California Cuisine lost an empire”. San Francisco Chronicle. 

^ “Jeremiah Tower Sells Part Stake in Stars”. San Francisco Chornicle. June 11, 1998. 

^ Kim Severson (August 3, 2003). “Acquire taste: Jeremiah Tower’s memoir of a turning point in American cuisine is hot and salty, sweet and sour”. San Francisco Chronicle. 


Jeremiah Tower’s New American Classics by Jeremiah Tower (published 1986)

Jeremiah Tower Cooks : 250 Recipes from an American Master by Jeremiah Tower (published 2002)

The Great Book of French Cuisine: Revised Edition by Henri-Paul Pellaprat and Jeremiah Tower (published 2003)

America’s Best Chefs Cook with Jeremiah Tower by Jeremiah Tower (published 2003)

The Arrows Cookbook : Cooking and Gardening from Maine’s Most Beautiful Farmhouse Restaurant by Clark Frasier, Mark Gaier, with Max Alexander. Foreword by Jeremiah Tower (published 2003)

Stalking the Green Fairy : And Other Fantastic Adventures in Food and Drink by James Villas and Jeremiah Tower (published 2004)

California Dish : What I Saw (and Cooked) at the American Culinary Revolution by Jeremiah Tower (published 2004)

Categories: 1942 births | Living people | American chefs | People from San Francisco, California | Cuisine of the San Francisco Bay Area | History of the San Francisco Bay Area