When Wolfgang Puck immigrated to America, his dream was to someday open his own restaurant. There’s no question he’s exceeded well beyond any of his imagined expectations: Puck is receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today, April 26.
He opened his first Spago in 1982 on the Sunset Strip; in 1997, he moved the iconic eatery to Canon Drive in Beverly Hills, which had its highest-grossing year in 2016. Over the decades, he’s expanded his restaurant brand to several continents, elevated the steakhouse concept via Cut (now open in New York City, London and Singapore, with Doha to come later this year) and added more than 70 casual dining and quick-serve locations.
His fame as a restaurateur has led to the No. 1 cookware line available on the Home Shopping Network. He can be found on the channel, showing the audience of potential buyers just how to use a spiralizer or a deep fryer — some of his many branded items. His line for HSN includes a crop of small kitchen appliances, fresh to-go and packaged foods, online cooking lessons, cookbooks and a sizable catering operation (Wolfgang Puck Catering).
Puck’s push to diversify was inspired in part by fashion designer and entrepreneur Giorgio Armani, who built out an empire of products and ready-to-wear labels from his haute couture line. “I thought we should have it the same way with an integrated company,” explains Puck of his luxury line (Spago and Cut) that’s expanded out to cafes at airports, convenience food at markets and restaurants at Disney World and Universal Studios. “It’s perfectly fine as long as it’s top of its class,” adds Puck of his signature items. “If we make canned soup, it has to be the best one, if we make frozen pizza, it should be the best,” he says.
Evolving along with the tastes of the times is a factor in Puck’s success. “I want my chefs to push the envelope; creativity is the most important. I can find people to execute but finding people who are creative is a different story,” says the veteran chef.
To challenge his chefs — and present an original night out for diners — Puck is offering the Rogue Experience at his West Hollywood corporate test kitchen. Eight diners can expect 10 to 12 courses (not available at any Puck restaurants), cooked collaboratively by five of his chefs.
“You have to be open; it’s a gastronomic experience,” says Puck of the nontraditional tasting menu.