Local chefs will gather to reflect on food, life and the passing of a fellow foodie at the Kimball Theatre Wednesday. The event features a screening of the Anthony Bourdain-produced documentary, "Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent," followed by a panel featuring three influential local chefs.
The event's focus shifted recently, following the death of Tom Power. Power was known for helping found the Trellis, which he operated with partners John Curtis and Marcel Desaulniers until 1994, as well as the Cheese Shop, which he continued to co-own. Power died Tuesday, swimming in the ocean while on vacation in Bermuda. He was 81.
"It's important for your community to have mentors," said Marianne Johnston, the Kimball's program manager. "We're going to honor him as well as his family as being innovators and entrepreneurs and active supporters of the community."
All three previously scheduled panelists will appear, including Thomas Power, Jr., the son of Tom Power as well as executive chef and owner of the Fat Canary. Tom Power's daughter, Mary Ellen Power Rogers, helped assemble the panel.
"I believe it'll resonate the same as prior to his passing," Johnston said.
Throughout the program, the panelists will offer their insights on life, food and Tom Power's impact on both. The remaining panelists are Desaulniers, a four-time James Beard award-winner and author of "Death by Chocolate," and David Everett, the restaurateur behind Blue Talon Bistro, Dog Street Pub, the current Trellis and others.
The film will remain a focal point of the evening. Tower became one of the first celebrity chefs due to his personality and unique take on American cuisine in the 1970s and '80s. Johnston called him an "innovative and creative chef talent," describing his story as untold, relatable and moving.
"It's a really fascinating story," Johnston said. "Stories are very, very important. Stories aren't really told anymore. That's how you can escape."
Food can bring with it a similar sense of liberation.
Johnston likened Power and the panelists to Tower in terms of local influence.
"That's how we're going to tie everything in," she said. "Our foodie demographic in this area has been heavily influenced by the Power family."
She recalled Tom Power's influence on her even as a high school student in the city. She witnessed the Cheese Shop and the Trellis herald a new era of American cuisine in the Historic area.
"They put Merchants Square on the map," she said. "It kind of started our food revolution here. Not many communities have that nice, rich culture in food."
Wednesday evening provides an opportunity for the people of Williamsburg to remember that influence, easy as it might be to take for granted.
"They'll be very happy when they leave, almost as if they've had a very good meal."
Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.
Want to go?
"Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent," rated R, screens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. The panel discussion and audience Q-and-A follow. Tickets are $8.50 for adults, $7 for seniors and students. Available at the Kimball box office, by phone at 1-800-HISTORY or online at http://bit.ly/2rE79I1 and Fandango.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for a ginger beer and cocktail tasting for those 21 and up.