THERE ARE THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS OF FOOD BLOGS, BUT ONLY ONE CULINARY NO-NO!
Wolfgang Puck was the original celebrity chef. He’s arguably the most popular of his kind, and understandably so.
As one reviewer put it about Puck’s skyrocketing fame, “His naturally vivacious personality and charismatic showmanship, with that strong Austrian accent, made for a perfect fit for a newly emerging television and celebrity market.”
A yearly tradition has Puck cooking elaborate parties for the Academy Awards. He’s constantly on television. His name is prominently displayed on dozens of restaurants.
Jennifer and I have dined at three of his establishments.
1) Wolfgang Puck Cafe in Evanston, Illinois, near the campus of Northwestern University.
2) Lupo in Las Vegas.
That photo was taken outside Lupo by Wolfgang Puck at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. An elderly gentleman offered to snap the picture. He was there with family members and was taking a long time to actually snap the picture. Finally his son got exasperated, practically accused his father of ogling, grabbed the camera and took the picture himself. He apologized but Jennifer and I didn’t care. We were both LOL.
3) Spago within the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, Hawaii, on our honeymoon.
“When I opened Spago (in Beverly Hills in 1982 in 1982) I called Billy Wilder up and I said, ‘Billy, I have my new restaurant open. You have to come.’ He said, ‘OK, I’ll come. Put me down on Friday night for eight or 10 people.’ He showed up with Gregory Peck and Sidney Poitier and Joan Collins. All of a sudden, they were sitting in the middle of the restaurant, and everybody said, ‘Oh my God, Spago is THE restaurant. All the big stars are coming to Spago.’
“Even I was shocked. And so then it just continued to grow. And then Swifty Lazar in 1985 started to do his Oscar party there, so that helped us. So certainly the celebrity part helped a lot, but we also had to try to continue to improve. Because if the food wasn’t good and interesting, people wouldn’t come, so it’s really important to keep on evolving.” said Puck.
A general observation would be that Puck has it made and always has. But there have been trials and tribulations.
Puck actually was unable to be satisfied. One could say such an inner drive helped lead to his global success. But Puck has never been totally happy.
One story Puck recounts was how he was abandoned on the dance floor after telling a girl he was dancing with that he was a chef.
He concedes his tireless work ethic was likely motivated by the feeling that everything in his life could fall apart at any moment.
A workaholic, Puck spread himself too thin. Eventually he became an absentee father and husband.
Since Puck never spent enough time with his kids, he and his wife and business partner divorced. He abandoned his mother, sister and grandmother. At one point Puck along with his sister visited the grave of his grandmother. His sister mentioned that when their grandmother was dying, she wanted nothing more than to see Puck by her side. He admitted he couldn’t be there because he was elsewhere, working.
This past summer, Puck stated in an interview:
“If you neglect the restaurant, then the restaurant will close, but the family doesn’t close, they just forget about you. You end up being an old man, and the kids will never come and visit you. To enjoy being with your family, it’s really a thing I had to learn because I didn’t grow up like that. I was happy when my stepfather left our house, not when he came home. And Gelila, my new wife, really helped me understand how important family is and how we have to raise the kids. You know, they don’t grow by themselves. You really have to work and be an example. I spend so much more time now with my children than I did before. I drove my kids to school and picked them up so that was always really quality time with them. I better do it now, because if I don’t do it now, when? There’s only that many summers left for me.”
In June Puck was the focus of a Disney+ documentary.
It’s not easy being a celebrity chef. It’s the restaurant business after all, just more upscale.
So maybe this is a Culinary yes-yes instead. The ever persistent Puck never quit when he could have just as well tossed in the towel.
Despite wanting to end it all at one time, this ultra-celebrity chef from Austria personifies the fulfillment of the American Dream.
CULINARY NO-NO BONUSES