Jeremiah Tower, the acclaimed pioneer of California cuisine who came out of retirement last November to rescue the expensively renovated yet ailing Tavern on the Green in New York City’s Central Park, has left the restaurant, the chef confirmed on Twitter.
“I am no longer at Tavern on the Green. The Tavern kitchen team and I have accomplished what we set out to do — a publically acclaimed, huge improvement in dining at the restaurant. A huge start: now Tavern has a foundation to build on.”
In November, Tower stepped in to replace Tavern’s original chef, Katy Sparks, whose style of cooking didn’t mesh well with the restaurant’s vision. Sparks also left after just five months. Then Jeremiah Tower reached out to lend a hand.
“Out of the blue, he came to us with this real passion for this restaurant,” owner Jim Caiola told The New York Times. “Jeremiah Tower contacts you, and you understand what he represents. An icon meets an icon.”
Yet Tower’s takeover didn’t bring either half of the partnership the acclaim they sought. The Daily News praised the chef as having put “the tourist Mecca back on track,” but The New York Times and The New York Post were less impressed. “The fun stops when the food arrives,” Pete Wells wrote.
Tower never gave any earlier indication that he intended his time at the restaurant to be so short, but, in any case, Tavern has gamely moved on. John Stevenson, most recently the chef at Russ & Daughters Café, has stepped up to the challenge.
Today, the restaurant also announced plans to “spring ahead” with an upcoming 140-seat beer garden and an outdoor raw bar with “oysters, clams, shrimp and other specialties.” Both are scheduled to open Friday, May 8.