wolfgang puck: feeding celebrity masses

golden guy (image from makingittv.com)

golden guy (image from makingittv.com)

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.

puck sells soup

puck knows soup

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!

Seal_LLC (2)

About Liz

Owner of deLizious Food Communications. Projects include recipe development, editing, and formatting; food writing and editing; nutrition analysis; public speaking and cooking instruction. Past and present clients: General Mills, Green Giant Fresh, Hormel, Minnesota Beef Council, Minnesota Soybean, Minnesota Pork Producers, Norwood Promotional Products, Pillsbury, Tad Ware, and Weight Watchers Publishing. Mother of two young girls.
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30 Responses to wolfgang puck: feeding celebrity masses

  1. I love Wolfgang Puck! When I was younger my mother used to make his smoked salmon and caviar pizza that they used to serve at Spago. Now I make it. Great piece.

  2. ksbeth says:

    i see a ton of parallels between the two ‘wp’s’ in my life. word press and wolfgang puck. actually, one is a big part of my life, and one is not. can you guess which is which? both are wonderful at what they do. most of the time.

    • Liz says:

      sharp mind, Beth–hadn’t seen the WP connection. He seems a character. Lots of good energy. I’m assuming Mr Puck is the one who is the larger part of your life 😉

  3. wdydfae says:

    Nice one, Liz. All new to me!

    When I hear Puck, I think, “If we shadows have offended . . .”

    A young Mickey Rooney.

    • Liz says:

      we’re learning from each other, Diddy–gotta love that. Your video keeps crashing, but I’ll grab it eventually. Saw Midsummer for the first time last summer (my 12-year-old was a fairy) and Puck stole the show.

  4. markbialczak says:

    Shoot, Puck, you scored with this one, Liz.

    Wolfgang seems to be on TV as much as ice hockey, my friend. And now I know the story behind the chef, thanks to you, and he doesn’t leave me too cold, though French food is not my think. I like the service element, that’s for sure. And with seven years in, the third of his marriage hat trick appears to have stuck. Knock on wood for the second pair of his four children.

    • Liz says:

      You are just rolling in the sports puns here. They’re flying much like pucks across the ice.:-) There will be no penalty for you, at least this period. Puck does more than French, though according to Kerbey his frozen pizza is not amazing. He writes a syndicated column, so I read him weekly and after researching for this post, I realized he is everywhere. Prolific, that man. Quite the marketer and astute business man.

  5. I used to love his canned soups!

  6. Arto says:

    Hail King Puck! Priceless.

    Love that happy picture of him in the soup can. That is a one jolly serving of soup.

    Wolfgang Puck feeding funny foods to Kellie Pickler. That’s two funny names, and more funny foods! What a meeting.

    T’rrific post!

    • Liz says:

      Thanks, Arto. Your comment is an upper 🙂 Hadn’t even made the funny-name Pickler connection. Which now I want to connect to Dave’s dancing pickle. Coming full circle at BoFN.

      • Dave says:

        Kellie Pickler… hadn’t thought about that one either… the funny names just keep on rollin’!

        And any time we mention the dancing pickle, it brings a giant smile to my face! At some point I’ll have to start paying that animator some royalties! 🙂

  7. kerbey says:

    So he wasn’t even born a Puck? What the fudge? Do tell us from whence he came up with that name. I recall being a youngster and hearing that celebrities were dining at posh eateries such as Spago, so that reminds me of a very Dynasty, feathered-hair time. He is a spunky little sprite, no? To the extent that pouting Gordon Ramsey always takes close-mouthed pics, little Wolfie always has his open, like he just got a surprise.

    Well, I got a surprise when I tried his frozen pizza years ago, and I had to Wolfgang Chuck it into the trash. It was very meh, not what I expected at all. In fact, I’ll take a Paul Newman pizza over his (and I often do) any day.

    I did like his sweet Puckmobile on The Simpsons. I’ll give him that.

    • Liz says:

      You have far better knowledge of Monsieur Topfschnig than I do. Never seen an episode of Simpsons 0-: How he picked the name Puck I do not know though sprite is an apt descriptor for him. Wolf, too.

      Thumbs down on the frozen pizza then. Meh will certainly not cut it with those Oscar nominees.

      I would like some fudge now, please.

  8. Before he was a big food celebrity, he was serving food at “The Bite of Seattle” to promote his “new” restaurant at that time. The food, very tasty. And his accent delightful. We had no idea we were meeting a future celebrity. 🙂

    • Liz says:

      impressed! did you talk to him? He got big, yes. Quite the business guy. Also quite the charmer, methinks.

      • Yes, we spoke to him for about two minutes. He told us about the food we were trying and what inspired it. So we tried one of everything he made.

        At the time, I took him for a local restauranteur promoting his passion. I remember my surprise the first time I saw him on television–and found out he wasn’t local. 🙂

  9. reocochran says:

    The great thing about Wolfgang is that his name is quite beloved over in Germany. I enjoy his cooking and his attitude is both funny and motivating. I like funny names (and words) and discovering their roots. . .

    • Liz says:

      Thanks for stopping over, R 🙂 You’re in the right place if you like the funny names and words! Puck is inspiring, really. Exactly what you say: funny and motivating.

  10. reocochran says:

    Also, of course in Austria… smiles!

  11. Looks like Wolfgang is saying, “And here we have the suppository version for you B-listers.”

  12. Liz says:

    it is a bit of a forced grin, yes? Kerbey mentioned the pizza being not so hot. Maybe even c-lister status. Good to see you here!

  13. Dave says:

    How has nobody mentioned his magnificent glasses with two different-colored lenses yet?!?!?! Those remind me of the glasses we wore while reading “3-D” comic books back in the 80’s/90’s before we had real 3-D technology.

    I can’t say for sure this is what I looked like back in 1987, but I also can’t completely say that it isn’t. http://www.wired.com/images_blogs/gadgetlab/2010/08/3d-glass-flickr-660×440.jpg

  14. Dave says:

    OK, serious question:

    Which would be a better name for a kid: Oscars Fudge or Carrot-Orange Gazpacho? I’m leaning toward the latter.

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