Celebrity Chef Wolfgang Puck, 73, after decades of success, culinary innovation, and expansion, still has his foot on the gas.
“Life is too short to brake,” said Puck, who was on his way from Beverly Hills to Bahrain to attend a glamorous, international Formula One circuit open-wheel car race. “We always have a big party and I am going to see my friends Lawrence Stroll, who runs Aston Martin and his son Lance, who races the cars; and Toto Wolff who runs the Mercedes team.”
After I self-parked my Chevy Blazer, Chef Puck and I spoke over craft margaritas and dazzling deserts at his famed, snazzy Spago – th landmark restaurant in Beverly Hills that is his fashionable flagship. Spago, which pioneered the “open-kitchen concept,” is dark and stylish with dramatic lighting. I ordered the Wiener schnitzel ($75) in honor of the Austrian-born Puck, whose road to epicurean education led him through Monaco, Paris, and Indianapolis before settling in Los Angeles in 1975.
Spago, originally on the Sunset Strip before moving to Beverly Hills, gave Chef Puck the world on a string (Spago, in Italian, means “string,” which is slang for spaghetti noodle.) Celebrities waited in line for his signature smoked salmon pizza (with crème fraiche replacing the mozzarella.)
The Hollywood stars came out once again after this year’s Academy Awards ceremony for the Governor’s Ball – the premier Oscar After-Event in a ballroom above the Dolby Theater – an exclusive bash Puck has catered for 29 years.
“We are honored to do it. We served another amazing menu of smoked salmon; chicken pot pie; black truffle risotto and lobster; beef wellington and fish and chips – which I had my chef from London come to do. We always have something from each of our restaurants,” Puck explained. “So, a lot of different things and our chocolate-covered Oscars. We cover them in 24-carat gold so everyone gets an Oscar from me!”
The buzz is that Barbara Streisand and Prince Albert of Monaco love Puck’s chicken pot pie.
Wolfgang Puck became a star himself, writing books, opening restaurants such as CUT in the nearby Beverly Wilshire Hotel by Four Seasons and four in Las Vegas; creating take-home grocery items; having his food appear in Disney theme parks and his name referred to in pop-culture such as the movie “Die Hard.” But Puck insisted to me he is hands-on when it comes to his kitchens.
“I love what I do. I have passion for it. This morning I went to Santa Barbara to see my fishermen when they bring in the fish because we always buy the best quality. Vegetables, fruit, fish, whatever it is we get the best.”
I asked Chef Puck if he’d run into the deposed Duchess and Duke of Cornwall – who abdicated royal titles to live in that part of California – when he was there.
“I didn’t see Meghan and Harry. I am not a big fan of them. I am reading his book now and he seems like a cry baby.”
Wolfgang and I toasted our craft margaritas – a concoction he created to the server.
“I’m happy to drink like Chef Wolfgang Puck,” I told him. “Throughout the day, how can we all eat like Wolfgang?”
Puck considered my question for barely a beat when the entrepreneur in him surfaced in his answer. “Come to Spago and it will be very easy. Unless you are a really good cook. Then I will send you the recipe.”
Contact Michael Patrick Shiels at MShiels@aol.com His radio program may be found at MiBigShow.com or weekday mornings from 9-noon on WJIM AM 1240