Chef Wolfgang Puck: 19 years of feeding Oscars’ hungry

Updated 23 February 2013

Chef Wolfgang Puck: 19 years of feeding Oscars’ hungry

Hollywood’s biggest stars, after weeks of dieting for the Red Carpet, finally get to pick up their cocktail forks again at the glittering banquet that follows today’s Academy Awards ceremony.
And celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck has the daunting task of preparing a post-Oscars spread worthy of the wait.
Puck will feed the 1,500 hungry guests attending the glitzy Academy Awards, one of the most glamorous on the US social calendar — a gathering of Hollywood’s most powerful and best known stars, directors, producers, and movie studio heads.
Puck, who has catered the event for nearly 19 years, says he aims to create a culinary experience as unforgettable as the Oscars ceremony itself.
“This year we’re going to have a party,” he told AFP.
“These people are so hungry by the time they come out of the theater that everybody looks for food,” the Austrian native said.
Puck, responsible for catering a reception held inside the Dolby Theatre just before the Oscars begins, has the even bigger job of providing the meals at the Governors’ Ball after the ceremony is over.
The 63-year chef says he’s undaunted by the challenge. He has spent weeks of testing and perfecting the nearly four dozen dishes that he will serve.
“When you come out, you are going to have this great sushi bar, you’re going to have a big shellfish station,” Puck said. One indispensable element of the soiree is an array of finger foods.
“We are passing around different appetizers, like our mini burgers, our smoked salmon Oscars, little empanadas, little spring rolls,” he said.
A kitchen staff of 350 has been enlisted to ensure that thousands of appetizers, small dinner plates and desserts are flawlessly plated on Hollywood’s most glamorous night, and the carefully handcrafted dishes and drinks will be served up by an army of 600 waiters.
“When people sit down, we offer them little salads ... and then warm dishes, like 12 different main courses — from baked potatoes and caviar to tortellini with truffles and lamb and lobster,” Puck said. “You name it, we have it.”
Puck moved to the United States at the age of 24, opening such legendary eateries over the years as Ma Maison and Spago on Sunset Boulevard, before that upscale resaturant moved to Beverly Hills.
The master chef now reigns over a culinary empire including upscale restaurants in Detroit, Las Vegas and Los Angeles and elsewhere in the United States, as well as numerous establishments in other countries.
Puck also provides sustenance for millions more via a thriving cottage industry of cookbooks, catering enterprises and ready-to-eat meals sold in US supermarkets.
Nowhere is the art of feeding masses of people well, quite the challenge that it is at the Oscars. But after a score years of catering one of the world’s swankest after parties, Puck says he doesn’t allow himself to get unnerved by the task. “I don’t get nervous at all,” he said.
“The only time I get nervous is half an hour before, because I don’t want to start too early and hopefully that everything works fine.”
Like many chefs, Puck enjoys innovating in the kitchen, some members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, who come to the Oscars ceremony regularly, actually want the same dishes year after year, prepared by Puck’s exacting hand.
“We have to make our chicken pot and the Oscar salmons and the golden chocolate Oscar — that’s a tradition,” he said.
And once the glitterati are fed and the meal is over, Puck said, “the whole world is going to be happy.”

Take a healthy approach to the issue of nutritional supplements

Updated 21 April 2018

Take a healthy approach to the issue of nutritional supplements

JEDDAH: There is a growing need for dietary supplements in Saudi Arabia, given the increasing popularity of junk food and the effective role supplements can play in treating diseases caused by mineral and vitamin deficiencies.

A recent study found that 22 percent of Saudi people take nutritional supplements. It is no surprise, then, that many Saudi businesses have forged partnerships with international dietary-supplement companies.

Dr. Rowaidah Idriss, a Saudi dietitian with a Ph.D. in nutrition, said dietary supplements can be defined as substances that provide the human body with a nutrient missing from a person’s regular diet. However, she stressed that they are not intended to replace healthy eating.

She also warned against taking them without first talking to a doctor or dietitian, as some products can have side effects, especially if taken before surgery or with other medicines. 

“They can also cause problems if someone has a history of certain health issues,” she added.

A blood test can determine which nutrients we are not getting enough of in our diet, and therefore which supplements might be beneficial. Nutritional supplements are also used to help treat certain health conditions. 

“Vitamin C, for example, is often used to reduce cold symptoms,” said Idriss. “Fish oil is taken to lower elevated blood triglycerides.”

She suggested four daily essentials that can bridge nutritional gaps in our diet: a multivitamin, vitamin D, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. 

“I routinely recommend a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement to my clients after consulting with their doctors,” she said. 

“For menstruating women, who require 18 milligrams of iron each day, a daily supplement helps boost iron intake.”

She said people over the age of 50 are advised to take a multivitamin to ensure they are getting enough B12, which plays a key role in the functioning of the nervous system and the development of red blood cells. 

“Older adults are more vulnerable to B12 deficiency because they are more likely to have decreased production of stomach acid, which is needed to release B12 from the proteins in food.” said Idriss. 

“It is also a good idea to take a daily multivitamin if one is following a low-calorie diet.”

She also pointed out that a high intake of DHA and EPA, the two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, are linked with a lower risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. A deficiency of DHA might also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. 

“A daily intake of 1,000 milligrams of both DHA and EPA is equivalent to eating 12 ounces of salmon a week,” said Idriss.

The dietitian believes that the Saudis who take food supplements often do so more to benefit their appearance than their health. 

“Saudi women consume more dietary supplements than other people in Saudi Arabia,” she said. 

“They do so either to lose weight or to care for their hair and nails. Bodybuilders also take large amounts of supplements.”

However, both groups, according to Idriss, tend to take supplements on the recommendation of friends and trainers, not doctors. 

She warned that commercials and social-media rumors can persuade people to buy supplements online that may not be approved as safe by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, and advised people to get as much of their daily nutrient needs as possible from healthy eating.

Dr. Rowaidah Idriss

“Along with vitamins and minerals, a healthy diet provides fiber and hundreds of protective phytochemicals, something a supplement cannot do,” she said, adding that the body absorbs natural food more effectively than supplements.

In addition, combining supplements with medications can have dangerous, even life-threatening, effects. 

“Drugs for heart disease and depression, treatments for organ transplants, and birth-control pills are less effective when taken with herbal supplements,” she said.

“Taking an anticoagulant, aspirin, and a vitamin E supplement together may increase the potential for internal bleeding or even stroke.”


Natural sources

With the spread of fast-food restaurants and their alluring ads, the long-term health of the Saudi people is in danger, as children and young people snub natural sources of nutrients, such as fruit and vegetables. 

“This can lead to many deficiency diseases. Moreover, vegetarians can develop similar illnesses due to the absence of meat in their diet,” she said.
Dr. Ashraf Ameer, a family-medicine consultant, said the importance of nutritional supplements lies in treating mineral and vitamin deficiency, especially for pregnant women, growing children, diabetics, people with chronic diseases, and the elderly. 

“However, these products should come from reliable companies and meet Saudi food and drug requirements,”he added.

Mohammed Yaseen, who has a food supplements business, said his company works with a leading British health-care company to provide the Saudi market with high quality products.

“With this we hope we can contribute to the national transformation program by raising private-sector spending in health care from 25 percent to 35 percent, which in turn would lead to the sector’s financial sustainability and boost economic and social development in the Kingdom,” Yaseen said.


Vitamin Terms

DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid. EPA stands for eicosapentaenoic acid.  Phytochemical is a biologically active compound found in plants.