Now that Mark has kicked off Awards Season here at BoFN, this month’s Funny Names in Food post spotlights a long-time regular at Hollywood’s Oscar ceremony. You won’t see him on stage, but the fruit of Wolfgang Puck ‘s (even better, born Wolfgang Johannes Topfschnig) labor is front and center at that evening’s Governors Ball. Dishes such as Oscars Fudge, Pizza with Smoked Salmon and Caviar, and Carrot-Orange Gazpacho are among those enjoyed by Hollywood A-listers on their Really Big Night. Puck has been catering the Governors Ball for 20 years now, which is insanely impressive enough. But there’s so much more to his story.
Puck was born in Sankt Veit an der Glan, Austria in 1949. His pastry chef mother taught him how to cook and he apprenticed under esteemed chef Raymond Thuilier. In 1973, Puck moved to the U.S. where he eventually landed in Los Angeles to become chef and part owner at Ma Maison restaurant.
By 1981, he had written his first cookbook, Modern French Cooking for the American Kitchen, based on Ma Maison recipes. One year later, he and Barbara Lazaroff opened Spago on the Sunset Strip; fifteen years later, Spago in Beverly Hills was born. Recognized as one of the Top 40 Restaurants in the U.S. since 2004, Spago helped Puck launch an empire.
Wolfgang Puck Companies includes the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, Inc., and Wolfgang Puck Catering and encompasses over 20 fine dining restaurants and 80+ Wolfgang Puck Express operations. As well, he backs kitchen and food merchandise, including cookbooks and retail foods. And then there’s that gig as official caterer for the Academy Awards Governors Ball.
Feeding celebrities has certainly helped his celeb cred and Puck has parlayed that cred into appearing on both the small and large screen. Acting credits include Frasier, a recurring role as himself on Las Vegas, and a cameo appearance in The Weather Man. He also cameod himself on an episode of Tales from the Crypt, and appeared in a TV commercial advertising California along with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jack Nicholson. Puck guest-starred on a Simpson episode. More recently, he voiced Chef Smurf in 2011’s Smurf movie. Of course he also has oodles of cooking shows in his pocket, among them Iron Chef America: Battle of the Masters, The Food Network’s Cooking Class with Wolfgang Puck, and an American Idol season finale where he introduced unusual foods to Kellie Pickler in comic relief segments.
But what is celebrity without service? Puck’s got that covered, having co-founded the Puck-Lazaroff Charitable Foundation in 1982. This foundation supports the annual American Wine & Food Festival, which benefits Meals on Wheels and has raised more than $15 million. He is also Honorary Chair Chef for the Five Star Sensation Benefit, which has brought in $10 million for The Ireland Cancer Foundation of University Hospitals.
Thrice-married, Puck wedded designer Gelila Assefa in 2007 and has four children, two from his second marriage and two with Assefa.
Quoted as saying,
I love to make people happy,
Puck has proved himself to be celebrity chef extraordinaire. All hail, King Puck!