Meryl Streep. Robert De Niro. George Clooney. Wolfgang Puck.
Like any A-list celeb, star chef Wolfgang Puck has become synonymous with the Academy Awards, thanks to his catering of the Oscars Governors Ball official after-party for almost a quarter of a century. The gregarious celeb chef and TV personality seems unflappable, but it can’t be easy making dishes for 1,500 of Hollywood's most elite at the most star-studded event of the year. Puck spoke with The Feast about how he'll feed the celebrity clientele—including Viola Davis, Ryan Gosling, and Denzel Washington—and who he hopes takes home a real gold statue (not just a gold-dusted chocolate one) on February 26.
The Feast: You have been doing this event for 23 years. Does it run like clockwork or is there still room for error?
Wolfgang Puck: You never know exactly what can happen; there is always something new, and to me, it’s the organization who has been doing this for so many years, so I don’t have to worry. Everyone is organized, and they know what they have to do. I have so many chefs working for me [and over 1,000 staff members] for so many years so it’s an easy way to do it, but it’s still very hectic.
The Feast: One year there was a mishap….
WP: The first year we were at Hollywood & Highland, all of the electricity went out while I was still cooking the meat and fish. I was really nervous for about 15 minutes until the engineer got everything going again, but no one in the dining room knew what was happening.
The Feast: How far in advance do you prepare?
WP: We might assemble it the day before—I have two kitchens—but we cook the chicken pot pie at the last minute and it comes out of the oven, and 10 minutes later the guests eat it. We also grill a steak to order which is as good at [Puck's restaurants] Spago or Cut.
The Feast: What are the most popular dishes?
WP: This is such a great party and it’s no longer a formal sit-down. It’s really like a cocktail party in a lounge, so you sit and eat or mingle with your friends. Everything is on small plates so you can taste 15 different things, but the chicken pot pie with truffles is the perfect combination of comfort and luxury. Everybody loves it!
The Feast: You do have time to eat yourself in the days surrounding the event?
WP: All I do is eat all day long, tasting everything. This would include the truffle mac 'n' cheese, short ribs, and potatoes topped with sour cream and caviar.
The Feast: How do you unwind after the show?
WP: When it’s all over we sit down in the dining room and have a bottle of good Champagne, like Piper-Heidsieck, and talk about what we are going to do next year.
The Feast: What can we always find in your fridge at home?
WP: Always Champagne and water.
The Feast: Who are you rooting for to win?
WP: You know, I didn’t see all the movies but I really like Moonlight. I’ll root for them but I didn’t see La La Land. Viola Davis or Meryl Streep might win. For the men: Ryan Gosling or Denzel Washington; our kids went to school together. There are always some friends that you want to win, but I’m rooting for everybody.
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