If you've ever tagged a chef on Instagram when dining out or spent hours watching shows like 'Top Chef', 'The Kitchen', or 'Rachael Ray', then there's one man we need to thank for the rise of the celebrity chef. That man is Wolfgang Puck, and now his story is coming to Disney+ on June 25th.
While most Chicagoans will know the name Wolfgang Puck now through his offerings in the frozen food section or his restaurant at O'Hare, back in 1996, his iconic 'Spago' restaurant opened an outpost at 520 N.Dearborn, a (that location is now the home of Mastro's Steakhouse).
Director David Gelb gives us the backstory and what drove and continues to drive Wolfgang Puck, with archive footage and even a trip back to his hometown in Austria.
In the film, we learn about his struggles with his stepfather and leaving home at the age of 14 because of home life and start his culinary career. His career took him from Austria to France to a brief stop in Indianapolis to eventually creating his empire in California.
Many of the traditions that we see today like an open kitchen where we get to see the chefs working, is all thanks to Wolfgang Puck's ex-wife, Barbara Lazaroff. Lazaroff worked in theater and knew that Wolfgang was a showman, and when they opened 'Spago' in Los Angeles, she wanted him to almost have a stage when preparing the food. Before this time, it was customary for the owner of the restaurant and the chef to be two different people. The owner would often get the credit for the success, and the chef was in the background often not known. Now the chef was front and center during the dining experience.
One of the most admirable qualities of Wolfgang Puck is that he knows his worth. Often he found himself in successful situations where most people would be happy to have a steady job, but often those positions didn't come with a fair title or pay. He created his own destiny, by not settling for anything less than the best. Although easier said than done, it's a good reminder to know our worth. One theme we see in the movie, is that his drive to succeed was driven by the voice of his stepfather whom he wanted to prove wrong. That's a subject I pondered during the film and after, the negative words people told us or the praise we've been giving and how that can motivate a person, and often what do we sacrifice to prove someone wrong.
The film is also full of interesting facts, like a story of legendary 'The Tonight Show' host, Johnny Carson and how he inspired Wolfgang Puck's journey to create frozen foods. Carson was a frequent customer of 'Spago' and started ordering extra pizzas to take home after each visit. He told Wolfgang, that his family loved them so much, that he freezes them at home. The conversation with Carson, lead Puck's desire to bring his cuisine to people nationwide. It's what I admire about the film and about Puck, is that he is extremely gifted and talented, but always had his mind and ears open to his fans who helped to elevate his career.
Wolfgang is not just a celebration of the man himself, but of the culture and the respect for the chef profession that we all get to celebrate today on social media, television and in our kitchens.
Wolfgang Official Trailer Disney+