The Skeptical (WORLD FAMOUS) Chef: A True Canned Tomato Story
Inspired by a true story … can you guess who was the world-famous chef?
Once upon a time, there was a young chef who had begun his career in a very progressive fresh/organic restaurant that would become the foundation for California Cuisine. He had a passion for creating delicious dishes but believed that in order to be successful, they needed to use the freshest ingredients possible. Unfortunately, good fresh tomatoes are only available in the summertime and could be inconsistent and expensive when they were available.
The chef had heard of canned tomatoes and starving one night after a late shift he decided to give them a try for a quick meal. At first, the chef was skeptical about using canned tomatoes, and had even mocked another chef friend (a young Mario Batali) for using them, but as soon as he tasted them, he realized his mistake. The tomatoes were incredibly flavorful and had a perfect texture. They were also incredibly convenient, as they could be stored for months without losing their flavor. The young chef quickly began incorporating canned tomatoes into more of his meals, and even proclaimed to Tomato Wellness (back in 2018) that if he were to open another restaurant today (he’s now long since retired) he would have a special dish on the menu proudly called “Canned Tomato Sauce” to champion the difference and superiority of the canned tomatoes.
That chef was Jeremiah Tower.
Tower is known for his pioneering work at the iconic Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California and later his own restaurant Stars, arguably one of the world’s best restaurants in the mid-90s.
Although he was first skeptical of canned tomatoes, he admitted that his friend Mario was right after all. In part, thanks to Tower and many other famous chefs, today, canned tomatoes are a common ingredient in high-end restaurant dishes and are considered a staple in all home kitchens. Now more and more chefs are raising awareness to sustainability, seasonality, and food waste.
Jeremiah Tower is also known for his many contributions to the field of culinary arts and his efforts to promote sustainable food systems. He has written several cookbooks and has been recognized with numerous awards and accolades for his work in the culinary industry. This documentary was produced by Anthony Bourdain, who considered Tower to be one of the first rock star chefs, and also the greatest.