Born Wolfgang Johannes Topfschning in Carinthia, Austria on July 8, 1949, Wolfgang Puck is today one of the most renowned and successful chefs in the world. After training at some of France’s finest restaurants (including Maxim’s in Paris), he came to the United States at age 24 and settled in Los Angeles, where he became chef and part-owner at the legendary Ma Maison restaurant. His first cookbook, Modern French Cooking for the American Kitchen, helped shoot him to fame in 1981, and his star only continued to rise from there. Here are a few things you might not have known about this legendary chef.
He Opened the First Spago at Age 33
Following up the success of his cookbook, he opened the first Spago, on the Sunset Strip, in 1982, at the age of 33 with partner Barbara Lazaroff. It immediately transformed the Los Angeles dining scene with its innovate and unfussy menu, and dishes like smoked salmon pizza became instant classics. It closed in 1997 and re-opened in Beverly Hills.
He’s Made Numerous Cameos as Himself on Television and Film
With numerous cooking shows under his belt, Puck is no stranger to television. But he’s also played himself on plenty of TV shows, including CSI, Las Vegas, The Simpsons, Frasier, and even Tales from the Crypt. He’s also appeared in films including The Smurfs, The Weather Man, and The Muse.
He’s Given Millions to Charity
He formed the Puck-Lazaroff Charitable Foundation in 1982, which has raised more than $15 million since then.
He Runs More than 50 Restaurants
Along with showpiece fine dining restaurants like Spago (five locations), CUT Steakhouse (six locations), and Santa Monica’s Chinois, he also runs 14 other fine dining spots, 20 casual restaurants, and nine bars and lounges.
He’s Won an Emmy Award
Puck’s self-titled 2001 Food Network show won him his first Daytime Emmy Award, for Outstanding Service Show.