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Jeremiah Tower documentary nominated for James Beard Award

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Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012. Sign up for our weekly newsletters, so our best stories will appear in your inbox every Monday.
A young Jeremiah Tower is depicted on a cruise ship, ignored by his parents but with the means to explore the Queen Mary’s elaborate menu, where foods in aspic delighted him. Photo: Tribeca Film Festival

“I have to stay away from human beings because somehow I am not one,” says Jeremiah Tower, without a hint of self-pity while wandering through Yucatán’s Mayan ruins.

That’s the opening shot of a 100-minute documentary film “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent,” which has been nominated for a James Beard Award for Best Documentary.

The film tells the story of a “father of American cuisine,” the first modern celebrity chef and one of Mérida’s most famous expats. “Last Magnificent” was a film-festival darling of 2016, finally airing to the general public on CNN in October.

The Zero Point Zero production also tells one-half of the story of one of the most famous food partnerships and breakups in American cuisine at Chez Panisse.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Tower was at the pinnacle of California’s Bay Area restaurant world. But a stunning flameout at his own restaurant, Stars in San Francisco, is described in detail here. The doc is also a character study.

Tower “appears on camera in full Jean Cocteau-Gore Vidal-Paul Bowles exiled-genius mode,” writes the East Bay Express. On camera, Tower admits, “I seem to piss people off a lot.”

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