This exclusive interview with renowned chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck is part of an exciting new program by About.com to expand our award-winning content by adding celebrity guest authors to the site. Not only did we get to interview the legendary chef, he agreed to share some of his favorite recipes (including his famous pizza dough) on About.com’s American Food site!
Wolfgang Puck has excelled in every conceivable aspect of the food business – multiple James Beard Award-winning chef, trendsetting restaurateur, celebrity caterer, popular television personality, and celebrated cookbook author.
Coming to Los Angeles in 1975, he quickly became a favorite of Hollywood's elite as chef/owner of Ma Maison. Wolfgang went on to create his flagship restaurant, Spago, and with signature dishes like pizza topped with smoked salmon and caviar, Puck became a star, and Spago a world famous culinary destination.
Wolfgang Puck went on to open many award-winning restaurants, including Chinois, in Santa Monica, and Postrio, in San Francisco. Wolfgang is also considered the premier caterer in Southern California, best known as the star of the annual Governors Ball, where he's served as official chef for the post-Academy Awards celebrity banquet for the past 14 years.
While you may not have dined next to George Clooney at Spago, you may have enjoyed Wolfgang Puck's cuisine in a more modest setting. He launched his first line of frozen food in 1987 to meet his customers' desire to enjoy his food at home. His all-natural frozen pizzas, appetizers, soups, stocks, and broths, are available at grocery stores nationwide.
A special thanks goes out to Wolfgang for his time, and for participating in About.com's new celebrity guest author program. We hope you enjoy the interview, as well as the signature recipes he has graciously agreed to share with us. For a more complete and detailed bio, you can visit this page on his official website.
If you could only eat one pizza for the rest of your life, which would it be?
"It would be the Four Cheese Tomato Pesto Pizza."
Regarding your new line of pizzas, how long did it take you to decide on the combinations?
"It took 27 years of experience."
What was the motivation for the new 11-inch size?
"I believe it’s the best frozen pizza we have made so far. The balance of the crispy dough and the moist cheese and ingredients makes it as good as a restaurant pizza."
The new Tuscan pizza sounds great. It features uncured pepperoni, sopressatta salami and Italian sausage. I know you've some single meat toppings before, but that's a lot of meat - is this a trend toward heavier, more substantial toppings?
"The Tuscan pizza weight-wise does not have more meat than other pizzas, it’s just different textures and tastes. And since it’s thin crust, it certainly does not come off as heavy. On the contrary – it comes out light and tasty."
Is there ever a heated debate between you and your team over which pizzas will make the final cut?
"Only once with a manufacturer – they told me they knew how to make pizzas so I let them do it. I tasted them and it was obviously not what I wanted. All I told them was, now that we have tasted these pizzas, let’s go back into the kitchen and make real ones. And they were a little shocked, but there was no disagreement."
Any predictions on which of the new flavors will be the best selling?
"I believe that the thin crust four cheese tomato pesto will sell the most, certainly here in California. In Chicago and the Midwest, I believe the Tuscan pizza will win out."
Is a savory chocolate pizza possible?
"I’m sure that I could come up with a dessert pizza. Since it’s only a yeast dough, it wouldn’t be too hard to make a pizza with some chocolate, but to be appealing, it would have to have a different name."
You are well known for trying lots of creative flavor combinations. In your experiments, have there been any fantastic flops? Or, things you were shocked went well together?
"I cook in my head before I start a recipe. So with all the experience it’s rare that I will make something which doesn’t taste right. Because when I put ingredients together, I know what the end result will taste like."
When did you first realize that you wanted to become a chef?
"When I was 13, I realized that the kitchen would be my playground, my hobby, and my profession."
What are your fondest food memories from childhood?
"Eating Wienerschnitzel with mashed potatoes for Sunday lunch."
Are you an extremely adventurous eater? Are there any foods you won't eat or even try?
"I’m rather adventurous in food, as long as the quality of the ingredients are first rate. Which means you won’t find me at Burger King or McDonald’s."
What is your guilty pleasure? What do you snack on when no one else is around because you don't want anyone to know?
"I love sweets, chocolate, caramel, fruit, you name it. Also, cookies, pies, soufflés, but - everybody knows about that."
What's your favorite comfort food?
"A good vegetable soup."