Today Jeremiah Tower, the trailblazing 71-year-old icon of California cuisine, announces that he is no longer the chef at Tavern on the Green. In a duo of tweets he writes:
I am no longer at Tavern on the Green. The Tavern kitchen team and I have accomplished what we set out to do— Jeremiah Tower (@jeremiahtower) April 22, 2015
– a publicly acclaimed huge improvement in dining at the restaurant. A great start: now Tavern has a foundation to build on.— Jeremiah Tower (@jeremiahtower) April 22, 2015
The move may not come as a surprise to all. Rumors have buzzed through the industry recently that Tower might call it quits at the struggling Central Park icon, though up until now all parties involved have strongly denied it.
The announcement of Tower's takeover of the restaurant back in November was viewed with a mix of anticipation and skepticism, but the reviews since he did so have not been glowing. Pete Wells was disappointed, and Steve Cuozzo vowed to never go again, while SF critic Michael Bauer traveled all the way to the East Coast to pan the restaurant. Only the Daily News thought Tower had brought significant improvement.
It's unclear what sort of note Tower leaves the restaurant on, and there have been rumors it is not a good one, but he sounds proud of what he's done there. He recently unleashed a tirade against Bauer's review on Facebook, and elsewhere seemed to defend the restaurant's menu. His Twitter comments would seem to suggest the same. It's also possible that he never intended to stay long – though he gave no indication of that originally, he did, after all, come out of retirement in Mexico to take the job.
Tower is now the second chef to leave Tavern on the Green since restaurateurs Jim Caiola and David Salama reopened the long-darkened restaurant almost exactly a year ago. The first chef, Katy Sparks, left after five months, and a series of brutal reviews. One of the biggest problems, for both chefs, seemed to be that the restaurant is enormous, and it's difficult to maintain quality when serving at such a high volume. So where does Tavern go from here? Is it doomed to be a tourist trap?
Update: The Tavern team has released the official announcement of Tower's departure. And it turns out that they have already chosen his replacement: John Stevenson, formerly the chef at Russ & Daughters Cafe. Here's the full announcement:
Jeremiah Tower is no longer the chef of Tavern on the Green. The Tavern team and Chef Jeremiah have accomplished what they set out to do. Tavern on the Green owners Jim Caiola and David Salama are pleased to announce their newly-appointed chef, John Stevenson, who was most recently the chef of Russ & Daughters Café. His high-volume catering experience prepares him for the many prestigious events taking place at Tavern on the Green, Chef Stevenson was Executive Chef at both 583 Park Avenue, where at just 25 years of age, he was named one of "40 people under 40" in Crain's New York Business, and at Guastavino's. Chef Stevenson also possesses a list of credentials that range from working with International hotel groups, multi-unit restaurant groups, as well as catering and start up food businesses.The team also adds that Tavern will soon launch a beer garden on its front terrace, and later this summer will add a raw bar in its enormous courtyard.