Obama's favourite chef to open new restaurant in UK

 

His restaurants litter the globe, his guests include the Obamas and Sir Elton John and his empire takes in saucepans and cookbooks. Yet it's unlikely you have heard of Wolfgang Puck, until now.

The Austrian-born chef yesterday opened his 26th fine-dining establishment, yet his first in Europe. Cut at 45 Park Lane in London comes almost three decades after Mr Puck, 62, opened his first restaurant, Spago in Los Angeles.

Back then, the chef's ambition was to bring French haute cuisine to the American market. He was hugely successful, but now the challenge is to bring Americanised European food back to Europe.

"The lunch portions are slightly smaller," said the restaurant's director, Loyd Loudy, who, like Mr Puck, anticipates some scepticism in a city with a wealth of French restaurants, some of them good. "And there are more greens and more seafood. Wolfgang loves the fish and seafood. It is much better than he can get in Los Angeles." The chef's crab and lobster "Louis" has been a feature of many of his menus for more than 20 years. For the first time, the crab is from Dorset.

For the moment Mr Puck, like the second-rate lobster, is at home in Los Angeles. For the last 17 years he has catered for the Oscars' Governors Ball and in so doing fed and watered almost every Best Actor and Best Actress since the mid-1980s. When Barack Obama took the First Lady out for her birthday in January it was to Mr Puck's Washington DC venture, an Asian-fusion restaurant called The Source.

Born in Austria in 1949, Mr Puck learned cooking from his mother, an occasional pastry chef, before beginning an apprenticeship at Hotel de Paris in Monaco. In 1973 he moved to the US and eventually to Los Angeles.

Following the 1981 publication of his first cookbook, Modern French Cooking for the American Kitchen, Mr Puck opened Spago.

According to Mr Loudy, Mr Puck has had an eye on London for years, but he said: "There has never been the right mix. He specifically wanted to open in a hotel."

Cut at 45 Park Lane offers 15 cuts of steak and a huge tasting menu. The head chef, David McIntyre, has worked with Mr Puck for 13 years, and has relocated from the Beverly Hills restaurant. For the next few weeks, the restaurant's 70 seats are already highly sought-after commodities.

The steaks are cooked to Mr Puck's unique specification, grilled over specially imported hardwood and charcoal, then grilled from above at nearly 350C. But it is not this particularly that Mr Loudy believes will be Cut's unique contribution to an already saturated fine-dining scene. He said: "It is the philosophy of service. Wolfgang believes passionately in front of house. The way we greet people and the style of service will be more like in the US, and entirely new to London."

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