Jeremiah Tower was born in the United States, educated in Australia, England, France and the United States, and is now an acclaimed authority on food and restaurant hospitality.
“If you have a good restaurant sooner or later the world will come by and that’s what happened to me at STARS.”
– Chef Jeremiah Tower
He began his culinary career in 1972-1978 as co-owner and executive chef of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. After the Balboa Café in Francisco, the Santa Fe Bar & Grill in Berkeley, and Ventana in Big Sur from 1978-1984, Jeremiah opened and owned several other successful and highly acclaimed restaurants in San Francisco (Stars, Stars Café, Speedo 690), Hong Kong (The Peak Café), Singapore (Stars) and Seattle (Stars).
Jeremiah sold the Stars restaurants to an Asian group in 1998. Tower then moved to New York to pursue new projects. After four books and 26 shows for a PBS series, he moved to Italy and Mexico to scuba dive and research material for further books.
Jeremiah Tower is as his name suggests, a guy who “towers” over most others in the culinary world. This guy has been there and done it and paved the way for many. He recently returned to San Francisco for the “STARS realigned” reunion dinner. In the room at Waterbar, San Francisco for the $350 a plate fundraiser, old friends from Tower’s heyday in the city: Chefs Jan Birnbaum, Mark Franz, Cecilia Chiang, pal and broadcaster Narsai David and many more.
We met at Waterbar for our Foodiechap chat, with his signature champagne in hand, Jeremiah Tower talked to me about his glory days, his love affair with San Francisco and the possibility of making this town home again.
This delicious interview was one of the true delights of my year.
Five Tasty Questions with Chef Jeremiah Tower
1. Being a Chef to you about…
Everyone had said that if you have a good restaurant sooner or later the world will come by and that’s what happened to me at STARS. Everyone from all of the lawyers and politicians selling us down the river to Sophia Loren and Rudolph Nureyev; just everybody.
2. It’s midnight and we go to your fridge; what will we always find?
In my fridge at midnight you can be sure there will be French butter, crumpets, chilled vodka, champagne and a can of black caviar.
3. In the soundtrack to your culinary journey, pick one artist, one song.
Culinary journey and music I’m not so sure, but of course I played Opera at full volume all my years at Chez Panisse, but the song that comes to mind now, maybe because I’m living in Mexico, is Carlos Gardel, the famous tango singer, and the song “El Dia Que Me Quieras” meaning “The Day That You Loved Me.” Hits me everytime.
4. If not a Chef, in a second life you come back as something else, what would you be?
I think I would love to be a great tenor so I could sing like Carlos Gardel.
5. Finally Chef, at your last supper you can have a couple of guests, who would they be and what would you eat?
Well Cole Porter for sure, and Colette, because she would love the truffles that we would serve. Maybe just those two for sure. It would definitely be bellinis and caviar and those crumpets out of my fridge, and if it’s not the stuffed sturgeon with black caviar sauce that we had the other day, then it would be the roast beef.
Lobster Stuffed Sturgeon with Black Caviar Sauce
1 each 3-5 # sturgeon
1 # p&d prawns
8 oz. cleaned sea scallops
2 each whole eggs
1 each egg white
Juice from ½ a lemon
6 oz. heavy cream
1 bunch tarragon, chopped
3 each 1.5# lobsters, cooked and taken from the shell
8 oz. black caviar
4 oz. good chardonnay wine
8 oz. butter
For the Stuffing:
In a robot coupe or similar food processor puree the prawns and scallops. Scrape down the sides of the processor bowl and puree until fine. Add the eggs, lemon juice and salt. Start the processor again and slowly add the cream just to incorporate. The shellfish does not want to be overworked or it will be rubbery. Test a spoonful of mousse in a pot of simmering water. It will take about three minutes for the mousse to cook. Taste for seasoning and adjust with more salt if needed. Dice the cooked lobster meat and fold the lobster and tarragon into the mousse. Refrigerate.
For the Fish:
Have the fish deboned from the belly, keeping the back intact so it will hold the mousse. Make sure all of the bones are removed from the belly. Open the belly of the fish and season the fillets with salt and pepper. Place the lobster stuffing inside along where the back bone was. Place enough stuffing in the cavity so you can still fold the fish back over so the two bellies meet. Using butcher string, tie several pieces of string around the fish so that the fish cannot open up while cooking and the lobster stays inside. Place the fish on a greased sheet pan and place in refrigerator allowing it to set up. Preheat an oven to 325’F and pull the fish from the refrigerator. Oil the skin of the fish and season liberally. Place the fish in the oven and cook for about 1 hour or until done depending on the exact size of the fish. A way to tell if it is done is to insert a thermometer into where the mousse is and it should read 140’F. This can be done a few hours ahead of time so it is just a quick reheat at time of service. Allowing the fish to “rest” also allows the juices to soak back into the fish.
Place the fish back into the oven for fifteen minutes to warm through but not cook. Place the chardonnay wine in a small saucepot and reduce by half over high heat. Reduce the heat and whisk in the butter so that it is emulsified and creamy in looks and texture. Hold warm. Place the fish on a large cutting board and slice across the fish creating a disk of stuffed fish when turned onto the plate. Remove any strings and the skin as it is not edible. Spoon caviar into warm butter sauce and mix just to combine. Spoon caviar sauce over the fish. Serve immediately.
(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)