My Life In Food: Wolfgang Puck
Friday 01 June 2012
One of the most influential chefs in the world, Puck has more than 20 fine-dining restaurants dotted around the world, one of which, Spago in Beverly Hills, has two Michelin stars. For the past 18 years, he has been the caterer for the Oscars.
What are your most and least used pieces of kitchen kit?
My most used piece of kit is a griddle. It's electric and you can control the temperature of it down to the degree. Last night I used it to cook lamb chops for my children and quesadilla for me. I don't use pots and pans that much for that type of cooking, really. It is a lot easier, more convenient, to just use a griddle. Least used is my electric mixer. It has literally never been used. I don't bake bread or make that many cakes, so it is quite unloved. I bought it convinced I needed one, but I was obviously wrong.
If you had only £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?
I grew up on a farm, so I love fresh vegetables and fruits. So I'd spend the money on either of those before going for fish or meat. I'd probably get them from either the farmers' market in Santa Monica or the smaller one near my house in Beverly Hills. Both are wonderful. It nice to get down there and see the produce close up.
What do you eat for comfort?
Comfort food for me is Wiener schnitzel. Or alternatively fried chicken. Both are foods I grew up eating as a child in Klagenfurt in the southern part of Austria. They are made in a similarly simple way, too: you just fry them in flour, egg and breadcrumbs.
If you could only eat bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
Even though I grew up on a potato farm it would definitely be bread. To me, bread is life. Today we have so many different varieties, such high-quality stuff. It is nothing like when I was young, when we would buy one loaf for the week and by the time it was nearly finished it would be stale. You know, though, I love mashed potatoes and crispy French fries, which I dip into sauce.
What's your desert island recipe?
It would be my take on béarnaise sauce. Whenever I have a steak and chips I have this on the chips. It is very simple: you take your béarnaise sauce and add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard for each person. It gives it a little zing, and counters that overwhelming richness that you sometimes get with béarnaise. If, however, it was hot on my island I'd want the ingredients for a margarita cocktail.
What's your favourite cookbook?
I love collecting old cookbooks. The French guys are my favourites. People like Brillat-Savarin or Curnonsky, I return to them again and again. That isn't to say I don't like modern ones. Heston Bluementhal's books are beautiful things, too. That said, my overall favourite will always be Brillat-Savarin's La Physiologie Du Gout (The Physiology of Taste).
What is your favourite restaurant?
I love my restaurant Cut in London. We have so many customers who know about wine, who know about food properly there. It is interesting for me to see the difference between England and the US. London has come a long way – I sort of prefer going to London than I do Paris these days, it has a very good food scene.
Who taught you to cook?
My mother was a professional chef, so she was obviously a large influence. Then there was Raymond Thuillier at Baumanière, he was my mentor. And what a man he was. He was not only a chef/owner, but the mayor of town, and he wrote cook books and was a painter. He was a renaissance man.
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