In a world where notoriety and recognizability have become synonymous with what it means to be important, a clamoring for the spotlight is almost embedded into most. In the long run, we’re left with a few reality stars who get to laugh all the way to the bank, but there’s really something to be said for the innate talents who have garnered the attention of the world because of their capacity; given their genius and charisma; because of a lot of hard work. This is true of Wolfgang Puck. Having spent some fifty years in the kitchen, Puck cut his proverbial chops in his hometown of Austria with his chef mother. Given his accomplishments to date, it’s not difficult to guess how that story transpired: Formal training from the age of fourteen; stints all over France’s posh culinary scene, including Maxim’s in Paris, the Hotel de Paris in Monaco, and the Michelin 3-starred L’Oustau de Baumanière in Provence; a skip across the pond to work in Indianapolis at 24; Chef of Ma Maison in West Hollywood by 26; and all this before getting to the personally-owned stuff. In seven years Puck had opened three restaurants of his own–Spago and Chinois on Main, were only a year apart.
Today the list spans far outside the grasp of California; outposts exist all over the world, many under city-specific versions of the same names, in what today has been dubbed the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group. Groups have been created in an effort to categorize the original star chef’s endeavors; which also include Wolfgang Puck Catering, and Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, Inc. In the catering leg of his business tripod, special event and contract dining services are provided at little shindigs such as, you know, The Oscars–Puck has been honored to serve as official chef for the post-Academy Awards celebrity banquet at The Governors Ball for over 20 years, creating multi-course offerings that are annually rounded out by his infamous chocolate buffet complete with gold-dusted chocolate Oscar statues. But don’t confuse his globally recognized star chef status with the fact that he cooks for the stars; no, no, he’s of his own galactic quality. So recognized is Puck by name, brand and reputation, that a third leg was created to support the weight of his remaining efforts, which include consumer products and a different tier of dining by way of fast-casual options that are both company-owned and franchised. From airports and universities to hospitals and casinos, these concepts include over 50 locations with a portfolio that continues to expand regularly. In the product space, Puck’s magic has graced everything from Wolfgang Puck-packaged food and beverages, to housewares and kitchen appliances, as well as book publishing, and other licensing and merchandising projects. Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, Inc. also manages Puck’s business as a communicator, which has come to include five seasons of an eponymous series on The Food Network, a biography on A&E, stints on all the late night shows, expert appearances on the morning shows and even a couple of those you-have-arrived spots as himself on, The Simpsons! But have no fear you too can learn to Puck at the Wolfgang Puck Cooking School which just launched and offers home cooks a comprehensive online collection of instructional recipes, how-to techniques and more.
What does he not do, you might ask? Well until recently the answer was simple: He didn’t have a restaurant in The City That Never Sleeps, The Center of the Universe, the concrete dream jungle, New York City. Some say the timing was always off or that the location never seemed perfect; perhaps he was a little busy what with about a million restaurants, a thousand television appearances and the designing of Panini presses. Maybe penning books had him preoccupied. It might have also had something to do with having a gorgeous wife, Gelila and four sons to love. But no matter, consider your concern abated. The day has arrived. Puck rounded out 2016 with the October opening of his signature steak restaurant CUT by Wolfgang Puck at the Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown. This, his sixth CUT location, is expertly situated in the vibrant and dynamic neighborhood of Tribeca, which is rapidly developing due to its old New York charms. It also marks the fourth partnership for Puck and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.
Unlike any of the other domestic CUT locations, New York will be the first to offer dining during breakfast, lunch and dinner. Puck along with Corporate Executive Chef/Partner Lee Hefter have named company veteran Raymond Weber as the CUT New York Executive Chef, and together they have developed a menu that “stays true to the brand, yet speaks to the East Coast and international markets by incorporating various global techniques, local ingredients and purveyors.” In short, a high quality approach to dining that’s appealing on a global scale while taking sourcing into consideration—posh and protective.
Breakfast items range from Executive Pastry Chef Zairah Molina’s morning pastry basket to eggs benedict with smoked country ham, a jalapeno-white cheddar biscuit and maple hollandaise and ricotta stuffed brioche French toast with roasted quince and a golden raisin compote. Lunch looks more like a Tsukiji Market sashimi salad with myoga, avocado, tosaka, shiso lead and lemon ponzu; a line caught striped bass with cherry tomatoes, limoni beans and basil; or the chef’s famous Grilled USDA Prime Cheeseburger with aged Vermont cheddar, a jalapeño-shallot marmalade and a side of French fries. Dinner honors the CUT name with an expansive menu of Japanese and American USDA Prime and Grass Fed steaks at the forefront of the menu but similarly includes such alternatives as a pan roasted Stonington Maine lobster with black truffle sabayon or a whole roasted Dover sole “meuniere” with preserved Meyer lemon and parsley. Cocktail and wine lists also runneth over with international influence thanks to Wine Director, David Morris.
Aside from the menu, art and design similarly act as pillars at CUT New York. Together, Wolfgang and his wife, Gelila Assefa Puck, collaborated with renowned French designer Jacques Garcia to birth the interior design concept of CUT New York, along with Kimberly Brown and Strata Architects. Instep with the menu’s approach to melding worlds when it comes to flavors and influences, Garcia and his team are best known for melding moments in their design spaces. His expertise in mixing 17th and 18th-century references with the contemporary can be seen in his revamp of La Momounia in Marrakech or in the revitalization of the Chateau de Versailles and today in the very first Puck restaurant in New York where those same references came together to set this restaurant apart. Similarly, Mrs. Puck continued in her traditional curation of unique art exhibitions in the company’s restaurants. She strongly believes that art is best experienced in the dining rooms where it can stimulate the intellectual curiosity of the guest and to that end she personalizes the artwork in each restaurant. For CUT New York, Mrs. Puck focused on infusing the delicate work of female artists into the masculine environment. With the works including Julie Mehretu’s abstract series, “Algorithms / Apparitions / Translations;” Tracey Emin’s neon, “Move Me;” as well “The Chef,” by well-known Los Angeles artist, Alex Israel, the space becomes about a conversation about experience more than anything else.
One would think that a light would dim from what some might call over exposure. Too many endeavors would tend to mean a lacking in quality due to the inability to be everything for everyone; but the Puck’s have got it down. There’s a finesse to their ability to design, develop and execute that’s all together strategically organized and magic. It’s evidenced by his fan base. Swarms of Puck-ites traveled to New York City for his opening. From editrix Franca Sozzani and supermodel Karolina Kurkova to esteemed colleague Alain Ducasse, it was a full house. And what else would you expect really from the man who brought us haute cuisine pizzas?