Wolfgang Puck On His New Wine Line, Lending His Voice To ‘The Smurfs’ And Catering Kim Kardashian’s Wedding
November 16, 2011 10:00 AM by Veronica Dudo
Wolfgang Puck is an award-winning chef, renowned restaurateur and philanthropist. He recently attended the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa’s food and wine show, Savor Borgata: A Taste of American Classics. The annual event in its fourth year was held at the Atlantic City casino in New Jersey. The charming celebrity chef met with fans, cooked for guests and answered lots of culinary questions!
Puck began his formal training when he was just 14 years old. Since leaving his native country Austria, he has traveled all over the world, opened fine dining restaurants, a catering company, authored cookbooks, launched cookware and gourmet food lines, cooked for dignitaries, celebrities, and has even appeared on television and in films. During the Savor Borgata event he offered advice to aspiring chefs; chatted about his new wine and sauce lines, talked about being the voice of Chef Smurf in The Smurfs movie and dished about catering Kim Kardashian’s wedding!
How important do you think it is to have food and wine events like this?
For us I think it’s one of the most important things is to get people really excited, they came to go to our restaurants but it’s very seldom where you can walk around and meet the chefs and taste the food of all the restaurants so I think it’s really a great event for the local community who want to come, they don’t have to gamble they can just eat and drink. If you want to–gamble a little bit or see a show afterwards. It’s still fantastic, so I think to me it’s the best way of eating–you graze really, you taste a few dishes from every chef I think it’s going to be a delicious evening.
You recently launched a new private wine label, Wolfgang Puck Wines, when will it be available in your restaurants?
We actually have two closets of wine, one a more reasonable price and one an expensive one so we have on the more reasonable side Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet and a Pinot Noir. For the consumer, probably in the $30 to $40 range for a bottle which is really a good price for a good quality wine and then we just released this year our really upscale wine which is a Cabernet from where all the most expensive wines from Napa come so this one is very expensive but we just made 120 cases of it so we’re going to sell it in our restaurants. It’s just coming out we don’t even have it here at the Borgata yet so it’s going to really be a special bottle of wine.
You also added Italian sauces to the list of gourmet food items you sell; how is it going?
As you know we started with frozen pizzas and then we did our soups and now our latest product was our sauces. We have tomato basil sauce, we have an arrabbiata sauce, we have a creamy vodka sauce and four cheese sauce.
There are a lot of TV shows centered around chefs but during the 1980′s you made numerous appearances on TV shows; why do you think there is such a demand now for reality shows with chefs?
I don’t think the whole chef phenomena is really new. I remember in the 80′s I did Good Morning America and I did Late Night With David Letterman and I did Johnny Carson a few times so that was really rare. The only one they had on TV was Julia Child, they didn’t really have many chefs then Paul Prudhomme did a little bit because Cajun was very hot in the 80′s too but then when the Food Network was created at the beginning it was a very iffy thing. They had an office, it was like nothing it is today and then little by little this whole thing became a huge success and it was like an avalanche it got bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger. Now, every young guy wants to be a chef and have his own show and have a restaurant people forget that they have to learn how to cook before.
Who have you been most excited to cook for so far in your career?
I think the most exciting thing was probably the first time I cooked for the economic summit and when Regan was still President and they had Regan and Margaret Thatcher and Helmut Kohl all the leaders of the industrial country down in Williamsburg and it was probably in one group the most impressive group I ever cooked for yet on the Hollywood side we do the Oscars every year so we are use to the movie stars a little bit more.
What advice would you give to aspiring chefs?
I think the most important thing is to have patience when you’re young you have to learn. A lot of people think they know a lot but it’s only when you know nothing you think so, the more you know the more you know you can learn and I think that’s really good. I started when I was 14, I left school and I’m sure a lot of other chefs started at 18 here in America and so on but to me it’s really to go to different places, learn in different restaurants go to different countries today the food world is so small that you can get great a restaurant from Hong Kong to London from Paris to Singapore everywhere. It’s really an exciting time because of the internet and everybody can get access to everything. You can go on the internet today and find out what they do in a restaurant in Sydney or in Moscow or in Vienna; so for young people they can look it up easy and say, ‘Ok, I want to learn that but I want to really not just learn what they can make but find out why they do things in a certain way; what is appropriate with that.’
You catered Kim Kardashian’s wedding, were you surprised when she announced she was getting a divorce?
I know Kim and Khole and all those kids for a long time since they were about 6 or 7 years old–I use to make them Mickey Mouse pizza’s at Spago so I know the father the mother, everybody so naturally they said when we get married we’re going to have you cater it. I actually wasn’t there that night, I set up the menu, did the tastings with them and everything. Then, when I found out, oh my God they’re getting divorced after two months– it was a shock.
What was it like being the voice of Chef Smurf on The Smurfs movie?
Since I grew up in Austria I had no idea what The Smurfs really meant to the American kids so when I did it, it was very easy. They just showed me some images and then they gave me the lines and that was it–it was actually a very easy thing to do because to do the voiceovers is much easier then actually doing the part acting out in front of the camera!
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Photo Credit: Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa