Start the Fire: How I Began a Food Revolution in America

America's Test Kitchen's Chris Kimball called Jeremiah Tower "the Lord Peter Wimsey of your food generation--flamboyant, sharp-tongued, talented, and in love with the style of the thing as much as the thing itself." Tower's California cuisine--formulated while serving as executive chef at Alice Waters's Chez Panisse in the 1970s, and perfected in the 1980s at San Francisco's Stars--formed the cornerstone of New American flavor. His legend is covered in the Anthony Bourdain-produced documentary The Last Magnificent, which coincides with the release of Start the Fire: How I Began a Food Revolution in America.

The memoir touches upon Tower's privileged, jet-setting childhood--filled with luxurious banquets--before moving onto his college years at Harvard during the turbulent 1960s, when he forsook student protests in favor of culinary revolution. He honed a sophisticated palate on expensive wines and French cooking, thanks to a generous allowance from his grandfather. But when his grandfather died, Tower was forced to find employment. He landed at Chez Panisse with no restaurant experience, but a keen eye toward promoting his version of perfection. Tower's fastidiousness, and his flair for applying classical French cooking techniques to fresh, local ingredients, put the restaurants he managed on the map. His work influenced generations of chefs, yet for all his successes, Tower's story also serves as a cautionary tale concerning how the excesses of such a lifestyle come with a cost. What begins as arrogant, haughty self-obsession becomes a thoughtful consideration of one chef's place in American culinary history. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

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