Jeremiah Tower, the subject of Anthony Bourdain’s documentary “The Last Magnificent,” recently graced the metro with his elegant presence. I was able to get a few minutes with him at Gianni’s Steakhouse in Wayzata.
“Jeremiah and my chef Steve Vranian worked together at Santa Fe Bar and Grill in San Francisco in 1981. Steve followed JT to Stars,” Gianni’s owner Terri Huml told me. “[Tower] was coming into the state for another event and Steve said, Why don’t you come to Minneapolis and, rather than watching the movie, all the chefs can meet you?”
A legend who speaks his sexy mind, Tower is a blast.
Q: Are you always this mellow and never have a Gordon Ramsay moment?
A: Who’s Gordon Ramsay? [Smile]
Q: Does Chef Ramsay know how you feel about him?
A: I don’t know him. I’ve heard that Gordon Ramsay, in person, is a decent guy, but his public figure and what he does for the restaurant and hospitality industry sucks.
Q: Sophia Loren, I learned in your “Jason Show” interview, made you nervous.
A: Yes, because she is one of the most beautiful and sexy women in the world; lived her life as a free woman. [In 1995] the Italian Consulate General in San Francisco asked me to cook this dinner for Sophia Loren. I said, “I can’t cook for her. You told me she eats pasta and sandwiches — that’s it. I’m not cooking pasta for an Italian. How could I do that? I’m certainly not going to cook sandwiches. It is Stars Restaurant, after all.”
Q: Have you ever eaten food off anybody’s body?
A: No. That’s supposed to be sexy to have sashimi off somebody’s beautiful stomach. I’d rather be at a restaurant, drink lots of sake, have the fish and then have the beautiful belly later. Any day.
Q: What food will you never eat again?
A: In the Philippines Sunday mornings it’s a tradition for men, so they can get back to their mistresses, to have something they call balut — a fertilized duck egg with the fetus inside … actually having beaks, feathers and nails. I could never do that again.
Q: Tell the streaker story.
A: People always think that something that happens in a restaurant that is not organized by the staff is bad. I like the role of chaos in an evening. It was the night of the opera so everybody was all dressed up and the streaker came through, naked, homeless; he’d probably been washing in the men’s room. I stopped him because I knew the room was horrified. I said, “Bartender, can we get this man a glass of Champagne, please?” He stopped and took one sip and then ran. The whole restaurant thought I’d orchestrated it. So everyone stood up, standing ovation. I thought, “Whew.” [Wipes brow]
Q: I understand a chef with Andrew Zimmern’s physique, but why are you and Anthony Bourdain so trim?
A: It’s easy to answer [for] Anthony Bourdain because he [practices a] martial art. [Scuba diving is Tower’s favorite non-Champagne passion.]
Q: And your secret?
Q: Has Anthony Bourdain talked you into a tattoo yet?
A: No. At my age I’m a victim of gravity. I don’t want to see gravity and tattoos together on my body.
Q: What foods do you consider sexy?
A: Champagne. That’s my major food group. Just about anything that you adore. Häagen-Dazs Dulce De Leche ice cream, pour over with 15-year-old Haitian rum. I mean, my God, that’s sexy.
Q: Your last meal would be, if you could plan it?
A: I would hope that it would be a kilo can of beluga caviar from Petrossian in Paris, with some toast and Champagne.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.