We talk about famous celebrity chefs and we think of Wolfgang Puck. It’s quite impossible not to know him, he’s just about everywhere—other than being a TV celebrity chef, Puck has ventured into almost all aspects of restaurant hospitality and culinary arts, and all successfully at that—fine dining restaurants, food bistros, catering, cookbooks, frozen food and kitchen wares. He even appeared in movies.
Hailed as one of America’s top-earning chefs (next to Rachel Ray and followed by Gordon Ramsay), Wolfgang Puck has indeed proven himself to be an accomplished businessman as well as a great chef. His secret? While he is vocal about his “Eat, Love, Live” philosophy, he says it is really about hard work, determination and love for his craft.
Puck learned to cook through the influence of his mother, who sometimes worked as a pastry chef during Puck’s younger days. He started his formal culinary training when he was fourteen, and in his early years as a chef in smart kitchen coats and chef trousers, he worked in many of France’s great restaurants including the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, L’Oustau de Baumaniere in Provence and Maxim’s in Paris.
His stars started to rise high when he moved to the United States when he was 24 years old. He first worked in Indianapolis for 2 years, and then moved to Los Angeles where he worked as a chef at West Hollywood’s Ma Maison and later became one of its owners.
As his close aids said, “he has such a dynamic, self-motivated personality and is truly brilliant in the kitchen. In Ma Maison, he was able to bridge tradition and innovation—fused it into one—making the restaurant a strong pull for the jet set crowd. And he was the star attraction. He really did have an inherent perception of the potential of California cuisine as early as the late 70s.”
And Wolfgang Puck made himself different. Any of our famous chefs, in their elegant coats and chef trousers, can come up with fine dining restaurants across the country, host TV shows, write cookbooks, produce self-named brands for frozen food and house wares, but none of them can cook for the stars as well as Wolfgang Puck can.
The “Chef to the Stars,” less than one of his food empire’s companies, the Wolfgang Puck Catering, often gets prime contracts to cook for Hollywood balls, banquets, galas and fundraisers. Such prestigious events include the annual Governor’s ball, where Puck has been the official chef and caterer for the Academy Awards celebrity banquet for 14 years in a row; the ESPY awards; American Music Awards; the GRAMMY awards; and other presidential fundraisers and galas.
While these glamorous assignments was paved by Puck’s early exposure to celebrities in his early years, he also got a lot of help from the company’s strategic partnership with London-based global contract foodservice company Compass Group, and its national concession agreement with Beverly Hills-based concert promoter Live Nation.
“But getting there has been a result of hard work,” said Puck in one of his interviews. “It is a tough job out there, and when young chefs ask me for advice, I always emphasize that fact.”
Kitchen disasters? “Of course we have those, who doesn’t? But our customers never know about it,” Puck added. “It’s how you handle a problem that makes you different from all others.”
And all these, combined with talent and his famous mantra “eating, loving, living,” very well explains why he succeeds.