Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wolfgang Puck Shares His Culinary Favorites

Photo by Isabella Vosmikova/Bravo 

Wolfgang Puck is one of the most celebrated celebrity culinarians in history. With a breadth of experience that stretches back to when he was a 14-year-old boy in Austria, he revolutionized California cuisine with his designer pizzas at Spago. Now he’s taking his perfectly tuned palette to the judge’s table on Season 10 of Top Chef.

People talk a lot to Wolfgang about cooking, but it’s not very often that he speaks about what he likes to eat. In a recent conference call interview he talked about Emeril Lagasse’s barbecue shrimp, local fish, white truffles and his mother’s home cooking.

Puck’s love of food traces back to his childhood, when his mother taught him how to cook. To this day, his favorite dish takes him back to his motherland. He acknowledged, “I grew up in Austria and for me real comfort food is Wiener Schnitzel. Wiener Schnitzel and mashed potatoes because it reminds me of my youth… It reminds me when I grow up and it feels very comforting.”

Austria is also where he learned to eat locally — a trend that’s sweeping across the U.S. as the latest food trend. But for Wolfgang, it was a way of life during his early years. He recounted, “We went outside into the garden, picked the vegetables and made a vegetable soup. When we wanted salad we picked some cucumbers, and some tomatoes, and a head of lettuce and we had a salad. When we wanted milk we went next door to the farmers who had the cows and we got milk. And if we wanted to make whipped cream we let the milk sit and the cream rose to the top and we skimmed it off and made whipped cream for maybe Sunday morning hot chocolate.”

That’s why, to this day, Wolfgang will choose the fresh catch of the day over something shipped in from afar. He recalled a shopping excursion earlier on the morning we spoke, saying, “The most important thing for me is to really buy the best ingredient. I just came from the fish market and I had the choice what should I buy a local Albacore from Maho Bay or a Bluefin Tuna, which came from Portugal. And I said, ‘They fished the Albacore yesterday and it’s local. So I’m going to do that.’ Now I’m going to make it up into something probably for tonight.”

It’s a satisfying dish, no doubt. But it wasn’t the epicurean treat that Wolfgang would have chosen if he could have eaten anything, anywhere in the world at that very moment in time. He conceded, “I would be in Piamonte eating white truffles and having a great glass of Pavao. That’s right now but it might change in three months it’s different or two months. But right now the first white truffles, we just got some in this week, and I got two big ones, which were really phenomenal. So I said, ‘You know what? I should go back.’ My friend is doing an auction there beginning of November and I said, ‘If I would not have to go to do some other stuff, I have to do home shopping, I would go there.’”

One other culinary journey he admitted he always enjoys is a trip to visit his fellow celeb chef and friend, Emeril Lagasse. Wolfgang admitted, “I love his barbeque shrimp with some barbeque sauce. He makes his own Worcestershire sauce and everything and I still remember each time I go to New Orleans and I go to his restaurant I always say, ‘I need the barbequed shrimps. I have to have them.’”

He lavished more praise on the king of “bam” adding, “I like his food because he has strong flavors. And when I go to a restaurant I want to have really strong flavors. And I tell all of my chefs in all of our restaurants, people should go home and the dish, not all of them probably will never have but some of them, should leave a memory in where you say, ‘Wow I crave this dish. I want to have that again.’”

Watch Wolfgang Puck as he tastes the offerings from all of the Season 10 contestants when Top Chef: Seattle premieres on Wednesday, November 7 at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. Central on Bravo.


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