79 minutes | USA | 2021
Director: David Gelb
Editors: Arielle Zakowski, Brad Grossman
Cinematographer: Will Basanta
Composer: Stenfert Charles
Producers: Jason Sterman, Brian McGinn, David Gelb
Writer: Brian McGinn
Cast: Wolfgang Puck, Barbara Lazaroff, Byron Puck, Christina Puck, Nancy Silverton, Evan Funke, Ruth Reichl, Laurie Ochoa, Michael Ovitz
I found it irresistible to check out the Wolfgang Puck documentary. First of all, I love food, and am always eager to check out recipes, books, and advice from top chefs such as Alain Ducasse, Paul Bocuse, Joël Robuchon, and now… Wolfgang Puck. Despite my conversion to veganism four years ago, I realize there’s something to be gleaned from master chefs. As the documentary recounts, Wolfgang Puck was really the first celebrity chef, after he made opportunities for himself wherever he could. From humble beginnings in Austria, he pursued his passion of cooking and went to France, where he worked at Baumanière and took the opportunity to suggest to the chef how he could improve the sauce. Puck kept forging his way ahead until he moved to America, built up a dying restaurant called Ma Maison, and subsequently started his own restaurant.
The main takeaway is that Puck really ended up in some really crummy places and turned whatever was around him into gold instead of throwing in the towel. He changed the perception of what a chef is with his open kitchens and having pizzas available at a fancy restaurant. After Johnny Carson began ordering out dozens of pizzas and admitting to Puck that he froze them, Wolfgang Puck started his own line of frozen pizzas and canned soups for his own crowd.
The film features his first wife, Barbara Lazaroff, who helped push Wolfgang forward and who helped create the design of his first restaurant. Unfortunately, he was more concerned with building his restaurant empire and later confessed that he didn’t spend as much time with his family as he should have.
Surprisingly, this is a Disney+ original movie and it was also the first English language movie with closed captions that I encountered on the Tribeca at Home platform. The score was both snappy and unobtrusive and the film flowed very well. There is a ton of footage of celebrities at Spago as well as Tom Hanks calling Puck’s catering at the Oscars “good”.
-Cantaloupe and shots of fruits and vegetables
-Puck would make two hour trips to pick up vegetables
-Shown on-screen: Twinkies, tasting tuna, cheese, live prawns, Puck sliced into salmon, caviar on pizza, sausages, hamburgers, hot dogs, steak, TV dinners, fish market, meat hanging up, lobster, eggs and milk for butter sauce, Puck puts the skin down first when cooking meat, sautéed bacon so fat goes into the vegetables, Julia Child featured raw “peep” of chickens on television, Chinese chicken salad, live crayfish, luxurious hamburger on TV with bleu cheese, cheese dumplings, Wiener Schnitzel, duck sausage pizza, Puck cracks an egg for his son Byron
-Native Austrian dishes such as: Palatschinken (made with egg, milk, butter ingredients) and kaiserschmarrn (made with milk, eggs, butter) and soup with liver dumplings
-Puck chopping up sting ray and David Letterman looking on in disgust
-Woman talking about how tofu has no flavor
-Showing snails still alive being boiled
-References to smoked salmon with brioche, dill cream, Americans wanting their steaks well-done, chicken soup
-Billy Crystal joking about Nemo being in Puck’s puff pastries
Article was written by Allison McCulloch. Follow her Twitter.