Wolfgang Puck may be the busiest chef in Los Angeles. When he’s not flitting in between his five L.A. fine dining establishments—Cut, WP24, Spago, Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air and Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill at L.A. Live—he’s checking in on his additional high-end eateries in Las Vegas, Beaver Creek, Istanbul, Singapore, Dubai, Bahrain Bay and London… not to mention his plethora of more casual concepts around the world. The Austrian-born culinary entrepreneur has also written eight cookbooks, starred on Top Chef, has his own line of chef’s tools and cutlery as well as pots and pans and his own line of gourmet goods, including organic soups, estate- grown coffee and even wine. This year also marked the 66-year-old chef’s 22nd year as the official caterer of the entertainment industry’s most important evening: the Academy Awards’ Governors Ball. Here, this Culinary Hall of Fame inductee discusses the Oscars, shares what he has cooking for 2016 and tells Haute readers what secret off-menu items to order at his L.A. eateries.
How do you evolve the Governors Ball menu each year?
Adding variety was important to me, but we wanted to create a party environment where our guests could mingle and not worry about having to sit through a long multi-course dinner. Now, we have so many options! Every year we add or change a few items, but often something we served “last year” becomes a must-have, so each year we work to changeup the presentation or some of the accompaniments. For example, our handmade Agnolotti has a different filling each year.
Did you feature any of your off-menu dishes on the Governors Ball menu?
Our tuna cones at Spago and sliders at CUT have been signature dishes since inception so they naturally made their way onto the Governors Ball, became instant hits and have stayed favorites at the Oscars ever since!
How have these secret items evolved at each location?
In each of our restaurants we are always working to create new and exciting dishes but we cannot keep them all on the menu. If we did, our menus would look like magazines! So, because they are dishes by popular demand, we always have them ready to serve to our guests.
What is the most requested item at any of your LA restaurants?
At all of our restaurants, we tailor the menus and experiences to our guests’ needs and wants. We have been making our smoked salmon pizza with caviar for years and years and we get requests for it at all of our restaurants around the world. It was a tradition that started back when I first opened Spago in West Hollywood and I think it is one that will continue for years to come.
How do you think L.A. has evolved as a fine dining destination in recent years?
Los Angeles since the ’80s has become one of the greatest food cities of the world. We are lucky to have so many different cultures living all in one place with some of the best produce and purveyors in the world living right here in our backyards. We have so many young chefs open exciting restaurants, as well as classics that have been around for several years.
Do you have any restaurant openings in 2016?
Later this year we will be opening our first restaurant in New York City, which will be my modern steak concept CUT. We will be downtown in the new Four Seasons Hotel right by the World Trade Center. People also ask me why I waited so long to open in New York but now feels like the perfect time with all of the exciting progress that has been made Downtown.
When you’re not traveling or at one of your restaurants, where are you dining in L.A.?
When I’m not in my restaurants, I’m usually spending more time with my wife and boys cooking at home. The boys love helping us in the kitchen. We also love Angelini Osteria on Beverly.