You can tell, just from the caption on the opening photograph, that this article was written a very long time ago. In 1986 Wolfgang Puck had only 2 restaurants and they were both in Los Angeles; today his empire stretches across the world.
It was also one of the most fun assignments I’ve ever had. In that moment when chefs were starting to emerge from behind the stove I wanted to see what the life of a successful chef was like. I called Wolf and said, “Look in your calendar and pick your busiest week. Then let me tag along.”
It was a very different time, and access to chefs was easy for journalists. Today things have changed, and I doubt that any modern chef would be as forthcoming about their lives or their finances.
But I’m sorry I left one detail out of this piece because the origin of the frozen Puck pizza tells you a lot about Wolf’s success. Johnny Carson used to come into Spago and order a slew of pizzas to go. One day Wolf asked what he was planning to do with all those pies and Carson replied that he froze them. “I was furious,” Wolf told me. “I thought he was ruining my pizzas. But then I thought again. I tried it myself, and the pizzas were great.”
And then, of course, Wolf went into the frozen pizza business.
I fell in love with the beautiful titanium cups at Singlethread restaurant. Double-walled, they kept cold beverages really cold and hot ones hot. They felt wonderful in the hand too. But when I inquired where I might purchase one, I learned they cost $175 apiece! When I started sourcing them, they cost even more.
But I recently came upon these titanium tumblers, and while they’re still expensive, they’re not insanely so. After all, they don’t break. And they come in all manner of lovely colors.
Actually, these are new menus. I’m in France with a group of friends, and these are some of the menus I’ve been lucky enough to eat this week. (If you want to see pictures of the food, they’re all posted on my Instagram account @ruth.reichl)
This is from Mirazur in Menton.
This from Ceto in Roquebrune -Cap-Martin.
This is from Maison by Sota Atsumi in Paris
From Drouant in Paris
And Comice in Paris. Right now we’re in Reims, tasting Champagne. More about that next week.
Hi Ruth, thanks for sharing this wonderful article! I have a story to share--about 5 or 6 years ago I was in Maui with my parents and family and we went to Spago on our last night there. We were having an amazing dinner and about 20 minutes after we sat down we noticed a huge atmosphere change. The waiters started walking faster, the place got really quiet, was very weird and then we saw that Wolfgang and his wife and kids were sitting down to dinner RIGHT next to us. We were both at larger round tables and my dad ended up being about two feet away from Wolfgang elbow to elbow. At one point, Wolfgang looked over and asked my dad how dinner was and they exchanged some nice words, my dad asked which wine he went for and so on. Then a chef brought over a HUGE platter with a giant wholly cooked fish on it, and a million small plates for the chef and his family to try. My dad, joking, said, "where's that on the menu?" Wolfgang then said, "oh this was caught today, you must try it" and made them cut the fish in half and send half to our table. It was very good, and I remember watching my dad, who is a SUPER picky eater, gleefully spoon the mystery fish into his mouth with little reserve because he recognized that being sent a fish prepared for Wolfgang Puck, at a Wolfgang Puck restaurant, is a once in a lifetime opportunity!
So fun to read about Wolfgang Puck and Spago! Also, LOVE the cup recommendation - but Amazon says it can't ship to my address (Washington State) :-(