What Wolfgang Puck Learned From 20 Years of Cooking for the Oscars
Chef Wolfgang Puck hasn’t watched the Oscars from home in more than 20 years. Instead, the celebrated Los Angeles chef cooks for the Hollywood elite at the Governors Ball—the star-studded Academy Awards after-party. Here, Puck reveals the entertaining wisdom he’s developed from two decades of throwing one of L.A.’s biggest parties.
Fancy comfort food rules. Every year, the Board of Governors insists on just one thing for the party: that Puck makes his chicken pot pie with black truffles. “They like comfort food, and so do a lot of other people—like Barbara Streisand,” he says. “I saw her at the restaurant the other day, and she said, ‘I’m coming for dinner, and as long as you make the chicken pot pie, I will be happy.’”
Extra equipment is a must. “When we hosted the first dinner at the location at Hollywood & Highland, I thought the kitchens were perfect. I thought it was going to be so much easier than when we had to cook in the parking lot of the Shrine Auditorium,” Puck says. “We were cooking 800 orders of roasted salmon and lamb chops, and then suddenly the gas and electricity went out. We couldn’t find the engineer for 15 minutes. I put up little propane stoves and thought, I’m going to have to cook 800 pieces of salmon on 30 little stoves. Thank god we found the engineer, but it was longest 15 minutes of my life.”
Champagne never goes out of style. “Celebrations always start with Champagne,” he says. The official Champagne of the Oscars this year is Piper-Heidsieck Brut, but if you’re celebrating at home and don’t feel like springing for a pricey bottle, Puck recommends doctoring the bubbles with a little raspberry puree or Chambord.
Michael Caine loves lobster. “Michael Caine used to come to the Oscars all the time,” Puck says. “Once he ate at the Oscars, and then two days later he came to the restaurant with his family and said, ‘Can you make me the same lobster dish you made for the Oscars?’ I said sure. And he said, ‘You know what, just make me the whole menu from that night.’”