There are few restaurants that enjoy iconic status. New York’s Tavern on the Green is arguably one of them. The restaurant, which sits on the edge of Central Park (that’s the green that it’s on), has been the site of many memorable meals and special occasions over the years. But its quality flagged over the past decade, and it finally closed. New owners reopened the restaurant earlier this year. It was met mostly with a big yawn, getting mixed reviews, including this one from me.
But now, as announced by Florence Fabricant in the New York Times, the owners have hired Jeremiah Tower, who is himself something of an icon among chefs, to take over the kitchen there. Does this mean they’re really serious about restoring the restaurant to its former glory and not just relying on unsuspecting tourists to keep the place filled?
I do hope so.
Tower was among the chefs who came last year to cook at the 10th anniversary gala for Norman’s at the Ritz-Carlton. When Tower stepped up to the podium to tell the assembled guests about his course, the other chefs — Norman Van Aken, Emeril Lagasse, Dean Fearing, Scott Hunnel, Brandon McGlamery among them — made bowing motions to show their admiration.
“I think Jeremiah Tower is on the shortest list imaginable when it comes to a Chef who has the stature, historical knowledge, cultural breadth and outright PERSONA to match that storied place,” Van Aken told me in an email. “Bravo! Let’s hope the owners are willing to give this Culinary King reign for a good year to turn the ship around!”
The New York article also had this from my friend Clark Wolf: “The idea that Jeremiah would do something in New York is kind of fabulous,” said Clark Wolf, a food consultant from California. “There’ll be a lot of delicious food. It won’t be boring. He’ll know how to give the place that sizzle it needs.”
A New York production company is currently assembling a documentary about Tower, which they hope to have ready to submit to film festivals next spring. (A representatlve for the production company contacted me about footage I shot at the gala.) I asked one of the people involved in the documentary what this news means for the production. “It definitely throws a curve ball at our narrative ark, but we will pivot accordingly.”
Let’s hope it means that Tavern on the Green will live happily ever after.