So You Want To Be A Waiter

The best book on waiting tables that you have never read – yet

Daily Archives: June 20, 2009

Cookbook of the Day – Jeremiah Tower Cooks


Jeremiah Tower Cooks

by Jeremiah Tower

  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; First Edition edition (October 2, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1584792302
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584792307
  • After there was Julia Child, Paul Bocuse, Pierre Franey and Jacques Pepin and before Thomas Keller, Paul Prudhomme and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, there was Alice Waters and her chef Jeremiah Tower. Her restaurant Chez Panisse was legendary in the Bay Area and became famous nationwide through the Chez Panisse Cookbookand other writings. The restaurant, which opened in 1971, is credited with creating “California Cuisine” and Tower is considered its Godfather. He is the creator of the “gourmet pizza”, a concept later taken to massive heights by Wolfgang Puck and others. Even though Waters’ and Tower split less than amicably and the two have traded barbs in print and through the press, I suspect that Ms. Waters has more respect (if not affection) for her old head chef than she’s willing to admit (and vice versa).

    Tower became one of the earliest “celebrity chefs” in America (transplants like Child, Graham Kerr, Bocuse, Pepin and Franey notwithstanding). He did it without having a cooking show or a raft of popular cookbooks but did it though is association with Waters and his subsequent restaurants Sana Fe Bar and Grill and his most famous joint, Stars. He was (and is) legend in the culinary world and this cookbook will show you why.

    If you’ve read any of my cookbook reviews, you’ll know that I treasure a cookbook that opens the door to a chef’s inner workings. The best cookbooks written by chefs are more than just the sum of recipes, but almost manifestos of their cooking philosophy and the passing of house secrets that can transform the readers’ own culinary efforts. And this book has it in spades.

    A book that has the outer appearance of an artsy-fartsy coffee-table book, you’ll find the insides almost utilitarian, with sparse illustrations and a matter-of-fact look and feel. It starts with Chapter One, ” Delights and Prejudices”, with the admonition that errors and improvisations are allowed (his individual gourmet pizza was the result of a happy accident). He runs the gamut of a glossary of cooking terms and phrases and a concise list of techniques that are used through the book. And his description of “salt and pepper to taste” is very blunt – that’s exactly what he means.

    His 250 recipes are fresh, healthy and mouthwatering, just what you’d expect from the best California cuisine.

    As we are on the cusp of summer, I can’t recommend this book more highly, nor is any other cookbook more appropriate to this time of year. You’ll learn many quick tips and insights about combining food in palate-pleasing combinations. You’ll discover that great food doesn’t have to involve jumping through hoops.

    But let’s let croc-wearing Mario Batali have the final word:

    Jeremiah Tower became my instant hero the first time I set foot in Stars, three days after it opened. To this day I consder him my ultimate mentor, and his voice, style, and opinions the arbiters of taste and truth in the restaurant world. The recipes and words within this book are timeless classics, as is Jeremiah himself. I love this guy. 


    Hottest chile pepper in the world

    And no, it’s not the habanero. No, it’s not the Red Savina, a special variety of the habanero specially bred to be especially hot and the previous top dog.

    No, dear friends, it’s the Naga Jolokia, from the home of some fiery cuisine, India. The name translates as king cobra chile. And for good reason, because this pepper has some serious bite.

    Let’s put this in perspective. Experts use the Scoville scale. Pure capsaicin, the ingredient that makes a chile pepper hot, is between 15,000,000 and 16,000,000 units. A fresh jalapeño (not the pickled kind) has somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000 – 10,000 units. A habañero and its kissing cousin, Scotch bonnet has between 100,000 and 350,000 units. The Red Savina has between 350,000 and 580,000. A cayenne has 30,000 – 60,000 units. The fiery Thai bird pepper has 50,000 – 150,000 units. Police pepper spray has around 5,000,000 units.

    A Naga Jolokia has between 855,000 – 1, 050,000 units.

    No, that’s not a misprint.

    855,000 – 1,050,000.

    Chile peppers of the same variety can vary according to the climate (water and heat from the sun). That’s why you’ll generally see a range and you’ll see different figures quoted from different sources. Different testing facilities get different results over time. Yes, there are people who test these things. One of them is the India Armed forces, who initially tested the Naga Jolokia at 855,000. It was up to another chili expert to get the larger figure, which was the first pepper test found to exceed a million units.

    If you think that the habanero is a killer, the Naga Jolokia is about twice as hot!