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[Interview] Wolfgang Puck, chef at CUT at 45 Park Lane

"I really believe that parents should eat the same food as their kids which means more vegetables and salads and less proteins," says the internationally acclaimed chef

Posted: 27 May 2015
by Catherine Hudson

Chef Wolfgang Puck
CUT at 45 Park Lane
45 Park Lane

Wolfgang Puck’s first venture in Europe, CUT at 45 Park Lane, opened in September 2011. It is a modern American steak restaurant featuring dishes such as delectable Wagyu beef, succulent pan-roasted lobster, sauteed whole fish and seasonal salads. The outstanding cuisine is accompanied by an exceptional wine list of over 600 wines, featuring one of the largest selections of American wines in the UK.

You’ve said that you were inspired to cook by your mother. How has she had an influence on your cooking?

My mother was a professional cook at a resort hotel and every summer I spent time with her in the kitchen, helping her. By the time I was twelve years old I already knew how to make a soufflé.

Do you feel that you’ve passed on a love for food and cooking to your own children? How do you feel about that?

I'm lucky because two of my children really love to cook and love the restaurant business. My son Byron goes to Cornell University School of Hotel Administration and has worked in some great restaurants. This year he's going to work at the Celler de Can Roca, so hopefully in ten to 12 years he’ll take over the business. Then there is Oliver who prefers to go with me to the fish market or to the farmers market instead of going to school. But he's only nine years old and already he loves to start the morning by making his own scrambled eggs for breakfast.

What kind of advice do you have for young chefs?

I tell all my young chefs to be patient and to learn the basics of cooking before thinking about having a television show or owning a restaurant.

How can parents get their children to eat well?

I take my own children to the farmers market and they taste with me - all the fruits and vegetables that come directly from the farm. Once we get home, we wash and prepare them, and cook them together. I really believe that parents should eat the same food as their kids which means more vegetables and salads and less proteins.

Don't miss... Our tastebud-tingling review of Wolfgang's restaurant, CUT at 45 Park Lane

What kind of advice do you have for working around dietary restrictions such as allergies and vegetarianism?

In all of our restaurants we have a menu for vegetarians or vegans and since we cook almost everything to order, it's no problem for us to cook dishes gluten-free, no salt, or no garlic, etc.

You have supported many charities involving children, including the Make a Wish Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the Children’s Diabetes Foundation. Why do you feel that it’s important to give back? What have you learned from the children you’ve come in contact with?

Children are our future.  And as a parent, I know that I'm only as happy as my unhappiest child so whenever we can, we try to give back to children and grownups as well.  My wife Gelila supports a school in Ethiopia with 700 orphans.  The kids get a great education and a nutritious meal every day.

How important do you think it is to try new, unfamiliar foods? How can parents get their children to be adventurous in their diet?

Children, just like grown-ups, are sometimes very adventurous and like to experience.  And often, it’s not just comfort food.  My son Oliver can go to a restaurant and eat a tasting menu or have a kaiseki dinner in a Japanese restaurant whereas my son Alexander will go to a Japanese restaurant and order a bowl of rice.  Or if he comes to Spago or CUT, me might get eat a plain steak with French fries.

In your newest book, 'Wolfgang Puck Makes it Healthy', you discuss easy ways to exercise. What would you say to convince people who are still “fitness-phobic,” as you call them, to keep active?

As people get older, we have to strive to stay fit and we have to try to keep on moving.  Obviously, I believe that good food has a lot to do with good health so it seems very important to use whenever possible organic, unadulterated food.  And then, just a brisk walk or any kind of exercise is better than sitting on a couch eating chips and watching TV. 

Do you ever listen to music while you’re cooking? What kind? Why?

I love to listen to music when I'm at home while I'm cooking. More often, my soundtrack will be Andrea Bocelli or opera. When I sit down to eat, I prefer more upbeat sounds, more modern like rock or Latin.

Which chefs did you look up to as a child? Which chefs do you admire now?

The most important chef in my young life was Raymond Thuilier, a person I still admire today because not only was he a great cook he was also a great painter, writer, owned a winery, made his own olive oil, and on top of that was the mayor of the town. He welcomed guests from Queen Elizabeth to Pablo Picasso in his restaurant. He was my mentor.

How do you feel about all the cooking shows on television right now? Are they promoting a love of cooking or overlooking important restaurant values?.

A lot of cooking shows today are about competition and drama: and drama is more important than what goes on the plate.

What foods did you like as a child, and what did you dislike? Has that changed?

I love traditional Austrian dishes like wienerschnitzel, apple strudel, and a good chocolate cake. I remember I used to hate liver and beets. Naturally, my taste buds have changed and today I love a good calf’s liver or a beet salad.

What’s the first thing you ever cooked?

I don’t exactly remember the first thing I ever cooked. I know the first thing I ever messed up was a chocolate cake, made for my grandmother’s birthday.

What’s your food guilty pleasure?

I love any kind of sweets really - good dark chocolate, ice cream, cookies, you name it.  I have a sweet tooth, period.

How important is it for families to cook and eat together?

To me it's very important to cook together to cook with my family and I love to have them in my kitchen.  The kids feel they accomplish a task even if they only help me cook pasta, or peel asparagus or cut carrots. I believe spending time in the kitchen and preparing a meal together makes it way more enjoyable for everybody.


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