Chef Wolfgang Puck: 19 years of feeding Oscars’ hungry


Published — Sunday 24 February 2013

Last update 23 February 2013 10:42 pm

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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.”

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