10 Questions: Wolfgang Puck

Just about everyone with an abiding interest in food knows the name Wolfgang Puck.

The Austrian born superstar helped to usher in the era of celebrity chefs after he opened the Beverly Hills destination Spago in 1982. What followed was a series of media raves, television appearances and the creation of several high end restaurant concepts...as well as a line of prepared foods, airport-based eateries and so on.

But he was already well-known by the time he set up camp on the Sunset Strip through his stint at Ma Maison and the publication of Modern French Cooking for the American Kitchen.

Puck has cooked for just about every celebrity in Hollywood and beyond. He is in Dallas at the moment to open his most recent venue, Five-Sixty in Reunion Tower. So don't be surprised if you see him driving down the highway with a tuna in his car...

1. Nobody has ever used your name as part of a double-entendre, have they?
Well, some people have misspelled it, but...I always used to tell the owner of the Los Angeles Kings that I should own a hockey team.

2. How often do you get to cook these days?
I cook on and off every day, so I'm never out of the kitchen. Cooking is my life, my passion.

3. Ever wish you could go back to that first kitchen and start over?
No. I love what I do now and I have no regrets. I would get bored staying in one place, doing the same thing over and over.

4. There was a time when we didn't have celebrity chefs. Did you think it would come to this?
You had a few who were known to the diners, to a certain group. But because of television, people get to know the chefs. There's a good part and a bad part to this. The good part is that we have some very smart people coming into the profession now. It used to be considered just a job, but now we get highly educated people who want to be chefs.

5. Where do you eat in Dallas?
I mainly eat with my friends, Dean Fearing and Stephan Pyles.

6. If you go out, is it difficult to sneak in without being recognized?
I don't care if I get recognized. And if it bothers me, I can stay home and get recognized by my wife and kids.

7. You've cooked for a lot of celebrities. Do movie stars have any better taste than the rest of us?
They're just like anyone else. You have business people with refined tastes and some who order steaks well done. You have some celebrities who really know food and some who don't care.

8. You gotta have a favorite junk food, something you shouldn't eat...
No. I mean, I love sweets, but if it's not good chocolate, I don't want to eat it. A friend brought me back some chocolates from Europe, but they were terrible. I tried one and spit it out. I was at a food tasting event in Kansas City and someone gave me a spring roll to try. It was undercooked and had no flavor, so I spit it out. They were a little upset.

9. Is there a dish you can't get right?
There are many. There are cases where maybe I just don't have the right approach.

10. You like cars. Is there one you really want to drive?
You know, I love cars. I love fast cars. I would love to drive a Ferrari. But these days I'm practical, so I drive an Escalade. It's something I can load up during the day and still go out in at night. I can put a whole tuna in there. If I drove up to the fish market in a Ferrari or Mercedes, they'd probably raise the price.

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Dave Faries
Contact: Dave Faries