Chef Profile: Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles
Wolfgang Puck began cooking at his mother’s side as a child. She was a chef in the Austrian town where he was born, and with her encouragement, Wolfgang began his formal training at fourteen years of age. As a young chef, he worked in some of France’s greatest restaurants, including Maxim’s in Paris, the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, and the Michelin 3-starred L’Oustau de Baumanière in Provence. At the age of 24, Wolfgang left Europe for the United States. His first job in 1973 was at the restaurant La Tour in Indianapolis, after which, in 1975, he moved to Los Angeles and rapidly garnered the attention of the Hollywood elite as chef and eventually part owner of Ma Maison in West Hollywood.
In 1982, Wolfgang went on to create his first flagship restaurant, Spago, originally located in West Hollywood on the Sunset Strip. His early signature dishes, such as haute cuisine pizzas topped with smoked salmon and caviar, put him and Spago on the gourmet map, not just in Los Angeles but throughout the world. Wolfgang and Spago earned many accolades including winning the prestigious James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Chef of the Year, twice, in 1991 and 1998, and the James Beard Foundation Award for Restaurant of the Year in 1994. Wolfgang is the only chef to have won the Outstanding Chef of the Year Award two times.
Multiple openings followed through the years, and in 2006, Wolfgang opened the Richard Meier- designed CUT, a sleek, contemporary steakhouse at the Beverly Wilshire. The restaurant was extremely well-received; the Los Angeles Times awarded the restaurant Three Stars and noted food critic John Mariani awarded CUT, “Restaurant of the Year” in the November 2006 issue of Esquire magazine. In April 2007, CUT was nominated for “Best New Restaurant” by the James Beard Foundation, and in August 2007, Bon Appétit magazine named CUT one of the top three steakhouses in the nation. Prestigious accolades continued in 2007 when The Michelin Guide announced CUT received one star and Spago two stars in the 2008 Los Angeles edition. In 2008, CUT opened at The Palazzo in Las Vegas, and in 2010, CUT opened in Singapore at the Marina Bay Sands.
Wolfgang expanded the CUT brand into Europe, choosing to partner with Dorchester Collection, opening at 45 Park Lane in Mayfair, central London, in September 2011. He then continued his ties with Dorchester Collection with one of the best luxury restaurants in LA, Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air. Wolfgang and the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group oversees all of the property’s food and beverage operations, and the culinary concept focuses on modern California cuisine with European and Mediterranean influences.
Wolfgang is credited with changing the way Americans cook and eat by mixing classic French techniques and Asian- and California-influenced aesthetics with the highest quality ingredients. He also was instrumental in changing the face of dining in Los Angeles, then in Las Vegas, where he was the first chef to create a contemporary fine dining restaurant, paving the way for other celebrated chefs and the city’s metamorphosis into a dining destination.
Today, Wolfgang’s empire encompasses three separate Wolfgang Puck entities: Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, Wolfgang Puck Catering (which includes catering for all the major awards shows in LA), and Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, Inc. Further, Wolfgang is actively involved in many philanthropic endeavours and charitable organizations in the states.
Central to all of Wolfgang Puck’s endeavours is his Wolfgang’s Eat, Love, Live ™ (WELL) philosophy. This stands for culinary passion for eating and dining WELL, ]which means a commitment to provide food made with only the freshest and most natural and organic ingredients available, to celebrate local farmers and seasonal ingredients, and to use only humanely raised animal products. Wolfgang Puck lives in Los Angeles, with his wife, Gelila, and has four sons, Cameron, Byron, Oliver, and Alexander.