Stars (restaurant)

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Stars was a landmark restaurant in San Francisco, California, from 1984 through 1999. Along with Spago, Michael's, and Chez Panisse, it is considered one of the birthplaces of California cuisine, New American cuisine, and the institution of the celebrity chef.


Chef Jeremiah Tower, former chef of Chez Panisse, opened Stars in 1984, together with investors from Berkeley's Fourth Street Grill and Santa Fe Bar and Grill. With an opulent interior, a busy open kitchen, and an unabashed preference for socialites and celebrities, Stars and its pioneering approach to food and dining became an instant sensation.[1]

The restaurant was among the top-grossing restaurants in the United States for years. Tower opened branches of Stars Oakville restaurant in Oakville (Napa Valley), Palo Alto, Manila, and Singapore. He opened The Peak Cafe in Hong Kong in the 1990s, as well as various related ventures in San Francisco including a more casual cafe and an upscale bistro Stars Cafe, next door, another restaurant nearby known as Speedo 690 located at 690 Van Ness Avenue described by Tower as "romantic Polynesian cuisine", and a kitchenware shop.[1] The side ventures all failed, and by the late 1990s the flagship restaurant was losing money rapidly, unable to attract enough diners to support its high operations cost.[2] Stars closed for business in late 1999, after which a "bittersweet" Tower declared that he was done with California.[1]

After Tower's departure the restaurant was reopened briefly by new investors under the same name but with a less expensive, Mediterranean concept.[3] In 2004 it became the new location of San Francisco's Trader Vic's, which had been closed since 1994. The Palo Alto location of Stars became a branch of Wolfgang Puck's Spago Restaurant in 1997.

Chefs who worked at Stars[edit]

Stars launched the careers of some of the Bay Area's most renowned chefs, some of whom have gone on to international fame. Among the Stars alumni are:

  • Dominique Crenn (Chef & Owner of Atelier Crenn & Petit Crenn)
  • Joey Altman (Bay Cafe television program, Wild Hare restaurant)
  • Brendan Walsh (Chef/Dean of Culinary Education at The Culinary Institute of America - Hyde Park, NY)
  • Mario Batali (Entertainment personality, Food Network)
  • Daniel DeLong (Chef/ Proprietor Manka's Inverness Lodge and The Olema)
  • Steve Ells (founder and CEO of Chipotle Mexican Grill)[4]
  • Mark Franz (Farallon)
  • Tim Grable (pastry chef, One Market and Fifth Floor)
  • Loretta Keller (Chef-owner, Bizou/Coco500 and The Moss Room),
  • Emily Luchetti (pastry chef, Farallon)
  • Ron Garrido (Chef-owner, Avalon in Eureka, CA)
  • Jerry Traunfeld
  • Clark Frasier and Mark Gaier (Chefs/Owners of Arrows Restaurant - Ogunquit, ME)
  • Richard Katz
  • David Spitsen (Appetizer chef, Seattle Stars)
  • Abdul Boury (Executive Chef, Café Harlequin [1], Kirkland, WA)
  • Michael Schrader (Executive Chef, Epic [2] Chicago, IL)
  • Chris Colburn (Executive Chef, Dalvay by the Sea [3] Prince Edward Island, Canada)(Chef de Cuisine, The Chanticleer [4] Nantucket, MA)
  • Thor Erickson (Chef/Instructor Cascade Culinary Institute)
  • Per Bach Nissen (Chef, Operasinger
  • Dean Kenney (Research Chef )


  1. ^ a b c Kim Severson (September 29, 1999). "The rise and fall of a star: How the king of California Cuisine lost an empire". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  2. ^ "Jeremiah Tower Sells Part Stake in Stars". San Francisco Chronicle. June 11, 1998. 
  3. ^ Kim Severson (September 29, 1999). "Fernandez to Don the Chef's Toque at New Stars". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  4. ^ "Steve Ells Profile". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Marlene Parrish, June 04, 2007.