It could be said that celebrity chef, restaurateur, and businessman Wolfgang Puck has cooking in his blood. He was born in Austria in 1949 to a butcher father and pastry chef mother. He began cooking in early childhood at home with his mother. At age 14, he began formal training as a chef.
His early professional experiences in Europe included some of the most famous restaurants in the world, including Maxim’s in Paris and the Hotel de Paris in Monaco. Then, at age 24, he moved to the United States. The move is reminiscent of European actors moving to America in order to become even bigger stars on the world scene. This is fitting since he is also acts part time and practically invented the concept of a celebrity chef.
The foundation of his success is his cooking excellence and innovation. He believes strongly in eating well to live well, and insists on using only the freshest, highest quality ingredients. Without that basic tenet, his culinary empire would have never been born. But like President Ronald Reagan, whose acting experience helped positively reshape the modern imagery of the American presidency for an age of visually sophisticated audiences, Puck’s larger-than-life personality and acting experience seem to leave their fingerprints all over his cooking empire in a decidedly positive fashion.
There are currently over one hundred Puck restaurants throughout the world, from Europe to Asia. He began by bringing the world such fine dining experiences as Spago, which helped introduce the idea of multicultural fusion cuisine. In recent years, somewhat to the astonishment of the world, he makes his high quality signature taste available to the masses at affordable prices and with the speed and convenience of the fast food and box meals that are the norm for many people.
In spite of his longstanding celebrity status and lack of shyness, no one can accuse him of excess ego or similar character flaws. He continues to be praised for his geniality, strong work ethic, and continuing dedication to good food. His restaurants have trained many chefs of the younger generation, yet he does not think of either retiring or resting on his laurels. He remains keenly interested in food and in sharing his passion for cooking with the world.
In addition to his fine dining group and catering service, his accomplishments include six cookbooks, a syndicated newspaper column called “Wolfgang Puck’s Kitchen,” and regular guest appearances on talk shows like “Good Morning America,” as well as numerous nighttime television shows. His brand includes canned goods and frozen meals available at supermarkets, plus kitchenware sold conveniently through the Home Shopping Network, for those wanting to try to cook like him at home.
His warm personality, enigmatic smile, and boundless energy are equally important ingredients to his success and public image. As is fitting for his self-expressed personal philosophy, he is actively involved with numerous charities. Most notably, his very own charity Wolfgang Puck-Barbara Lazaroff Charitable Foundation has raised millions of dollars for Meals-On-Wheels of Los Angeles. He is also a significant supporter of several other charities, including the Cystic Fibrosis Society, the American Cancer Society, and the Children’s Diabetes Foundation.
He lives in Los Angeles California with his wife and has four children. He has a bottomless intellectual curiosity and great zest for life.
Stanley Frump is a freelance writer who focuses on food & diet, nutritional science, the culinary arts and other topics. If this piece sparked your interest you may want to view the educational resources available here at culinaryschoolsconnection.com.
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