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Anthony Bourdain calls Tavern on the Green a ‘chef killer’

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 23: Anthony Bourdain attends "The Big Short" New York screening Ziegfeld Theater on November 23, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images) Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

NEW YORK, NY – NOVEMBER 23: Anthony Bourdain attends “The Big Short” New York screening Ziegfeld Theater on November 23, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

Enlarge Jeremiah the Magnificent poster CNN Films

Jeremiah the Magnificent poster

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Anthony Bourdain produced  the documentary “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent” which follows the culinary career of chef Jeremiah Tower.

It was supposed to be his culinary comeback.

After a near 20-year hiatus from the kitchen, California chef Jeremiah Tower set out to redeem his career — and legacy — at Tavern on the Green.

He was named executive chef at the iconic Central Park landmark that re-opened in 2014 after a $ 16 million renovation. But regardless of culinary talent, the restaurant — known for its mediocre food and a high volume of customers — is a “chef killer” according to celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain.

“He fooled himself into thinking that he could do the undoable,” Bourdain tells the Daily News. “I thought he was doomed from the get-go.”

Bourdain is among the chefs interviewed in the new documentary “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent,” premiering Saturday, April 16 at the Tribeca Film Festival.

It’s impossible to make good meals when you’re doing those numbers

The film follows Tower’s troubled childhood, in which he was sexually abused, suffered neglect from his parents and struggled to come out as a gay man. Tower, now 74, traveled through opulent hotels as a child with his wealthy family, and realized his passion for fine dining after taking an exhilarating sip of consommé (clear soup made from richly flavored stock) at age 10.

“It made me fall in love immediately with first class,” Tower says in the film.

Most wouldn’t know Tower by name. But he’s arguably the first real celebrity chef and pioneered the farm-to-table California cuisine movement that transformed Alice Waters’ iconic French bistro Chez Panisse in 1974.

Tower went on to dazzle diners with his celebrity-filled San Francisco American brasserie, Stars, in the mid-1980s where the extravagant host greeted guests with champagne. But when it closed in 1999, Tower fell off the dining scene.

COLOR CORRECTEDCourtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

Jeremiah the Magnificent debuts Saturday, April 16 at the Tribeca Film Festival. 

The climax of the documentary is Tower’s triumphant return to the kitchen at Tavern on the Green.

“Somewhere out of my past was this feeling that the show must go on and it better be a damn good show,” Tower says in the film.

But the odds were against him.

Tavern has had a whopping four chefs in two years. Katy Sparks was the executive chef when the restaurant first re-opened in 2014, for just five months before Tower took over, who barely lasted six months. John Stevenson, formerly of Russ & Daughters Cafe, lasted a year, and former Urbo chef Bill Peet just took over this month.

COLOR CORRECTEDCourtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

The film follows Tower’s culinary career. He’s best known for his extravagant, celebrity-filled restaurant Stars in San Francisco.

“It’s impossible to make good meals when you’re doing those numbers,” Bourdain says of the 400-seat restaurant in the film.

“Before the place was even reviewed they pretty much had the knives out for him,” he adds.

Screenings of “Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent” will be held Saturday, April 16 at 3 p.m. at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center; Sunday, April 17th at 2:30 p.m. at Regal Cinemas Battery Park 11; and Thursday, April 21st at 9:15 p.m in Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea 4. For tickets, visit tribecafilm.com/filmguide .

jsettembre@nydailynews.com

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Lifestyle – NY Daily News

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