Books: Cooking by Cuisine -> Cooking American
California Dish : What I Saw (and Cooked) at the American Culinary Revolution
Published: August 4, 2003
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Years back the standard Jeremiah Tower press kit claimed the master's hand in the development of everything to do with food just this side of the invention of fire. California cuisine? Café dining? Franco-Asian fusion food? All Jeremiah.
Well, that was PR, a subject Tower addresses in his memoir of his life in food and the food business, California Dish: What I Saw (and Cooked) at the American Culinary Revolution. This isn't to say that Tower doesn't make his own argument for all his
contributions, setting the record straight where he thinks the record has slipped into mythology. His contribution to the rise of Chez Panisse, for example. This is a man with an apparent lifelong habit of journal keeping. He isn't waiting for his own
demise for the story to unfold. Rather, Tower tells all--his version of all--in the here and now, letting the chips fall where they may. The pleasure may be vicarious, but it-s a pleasure none the less.
In 50 years the organizing principle of this
memoir, that the rise of California cuisine and who gets credit for what actually matters, may hold no water. But California Dish will remain invaluable as a memoir of the time by one of its more outlandish characters, a man who spent a good deal of his
youth on ocean liners and in upscale hotel dining rooms. He shares all this in the spirit of James Beard's Delights and Prejudices, which documented an earlier time and way with food. Tower will be accused of cattiness, no doubt. And he is. He'll be
accused of self-promotion. And he does. But he also lays on the praise where he believes it is due. When he admires other chefs and their work, he says so. In a series of scenes he returns to James Beard the dignity of his sexuality, like throwing the
switch from two to three dimensions.
The first-person point-of-view often reveals much more about the writer than the writer ever intended. It's the nature of the beast. Tower may have been aiming at an improved press kit version of his life. But
what press kit was ever poignant? For all the names of the famous, for all the celebrity happenings, the constant world travel, the designer labels, Jeremiah Tower seems a lonely man by book's end, a glass of fine champagne his best friend. --Schuyler
Widely recognized as the godfather of modern American cooking and a mentor to such rising celebrity chefs as Mario Batali, Jeremiah Tower is one of the most influential cooks of the last thirty years. Now, the
former chef and partner at Chez Panisse and the genius behind Stars San Francisco tells the story of his lifelong love affair with food -- an affair that helped to spark an international culinary revolution.
Raised in the United States,
Australia, and Great Britain, two-time James Beard Award-winner Jeremiah Tower was a man without a country -- until he immersed himself in the borderless world of great cooking and set out to create the "serious simplicity" that would change our notions
of fine dining. Stumbling almost by accident into Berkeley's then-unknown Chez Panisse in 1971, he dazzled the San Francisco Bay Area -- and then the rest of the country -- with his dedication to fresh, local ingredients prepared simply. Eager to fulfill
his own dining vision, he embarked on his quest to build the ultimate high-style "democratic" brasserie, San Francisco's Stars, where blue-jeaned rockers mixed with tuxedoed operagoers and political figures from around the world. With the expansion of
Tower's empire into Hong Kong, Singapore, and Seattle, he became one of the first and most glamorous of the eighties "super chefs."
In this sparkling and candid memoir of his life with food, Tower tells the story of his rise and fall and rise
again -- all intimately tied to the state of the culinary arts. More than a brilliant chef, Tower is an engaging storyteller who shares with wit and honesty the real dish on cooking, chefs, celebrities, and what really goes on in the kitchen. He exults
in the exotic romance language of menus; the philosophy of brown sauce; the inner workings of a super
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