Ever been curious about what all those gorgeous celebrities actually eat at what is possibly the best after-party in the world?
We spoke with Wolfgang Puck in L.A., a favourite chef among the rich and famous, whose restaurant Spago, originally located in West Hollywood on the Sunset Strip, was an instant success and culinary phenomenon from the moment it opened. The famous chef has since built an empire that encompasses three separate Wolfgang Puck entities: Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, Wolfgang Puck Catering, and Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, Inc.
He's the go-to caterer for the Oscars, and this year will fly in chefs from his restaurants all over the world to dish up thousands of plates in less than two hours at the illustrious Governors Ball. And this year everything from Maine lobster and chicken pot pie to mac 'n' cheese and mini yuzu tarte tropezienne will be on the menu.
Speaking to Chef Wolfgang in L.A., his calm authority speaks of the years of experience the Austrian chef has spent executing such high pressure, distinguished events. Best discovery of the interview? Leo is a foodie and loves his wine. We knew it.
Chef Wolfgang Puck with Charlize Theron
What are some of the greatest challenges in cooking for the stars?
What is challenging is the sheer magnitude of how many dishes we are sending out in such a short amount of time. These celebrities have usually not eaten until 10pm that night what with getting their hair, make up, tailoring all done on the day of. So when they arrive, they're hungry. We have to plate up 12,000 plates in one and half hours and ensure the standard is consistent.
How can you guarantee each plate goes out to a standard you're happy with?
A lot of the menu is served tapas style, with sharing plates and roaming waiters. The only thing we are sure of is the quality of our staff. I have such a great team of 300 hundred chefs and 600 hundred waiters and we are very well organised. It’s definitely a lot of work with unique challenges because we cook everything at the last minute, but we are prepared and with such an international array of chefs and students, we have plenty of help. Some of the chefs have been working with me for 25 plus years!
What are some interesting celebrity encounters you have had?
I remember one year I went out after everyone had been fed and went to congratulate the winners on their awards. I was speaking with Martin Scorsese and he said, “You know what Wolfgang, I would love a little pasta, can you make it for me?" Of course we could, so I went to the kitchen to make him a little pasta just how he likes.
Chef Wolfgang Puck with Martin Scorsese
Cooking for some of the greatest artists in the world, what story are you are trying to tell through your own craft?
The big story is that we use local ingredients from nearly all local farmers. Where possible, the dishes are from West Coast fisheries and the surrounding community. Whatever is closest to us is always the most fresh, and we like to support our local suppliers.
What changes have you noticed in people's tastes over the years?
People are far more about gluten free, and now there are a lot more vegetarians. If you look at the menu, we have gluten free, nut free and vegan options specified. Though I have to tell you a secret; even the vegetarians eat meat sometimes at the Governor's Ball [laughs].
Grammy’s Dinner vs Oscar's Ball; which do you prefer?
Though we did not cater the Grammy’s this year, what I know from past experience is the Grammy's is such a big event, and so a lot less intimate. I prefer to do the Oscars because we can do a better job when it is a smaller scope.
Are there any other foodies among the star-studded assembly?
Oh yes, there are lots!
Barbara Streisand loves chicken pot pie and requests it every year.
Leonardo Dicaprio loves Asian influenced food, and specifically Chinese food. He also loves his wine so we make sure there is a nice bottle always close to his place at the table.
Jennifer Lawrence loved the baked potato with caviar so much on the year she won her Oscar [in 2013] and she said it was the best she has ever had.
John Travolta loves the home cooked foods and his favourite is the mac 'n' cheese.
Danny Devito loves his lobster.
Everyone likes the spicy tuna cones and the salmon pizza. So we always try to keep favourites on the menu while bringing in some newer options each year.
Chef Wolfgang Puck with John Travolta
What else does Leo like to eat?
Leonardo Dicaprio is a big foodie. He likes to order the ten course menu and savour it. He really loves food and wine (which is why we always have a good wine on the side ready for him).
For the Hong Kongers, which regions will you draw inspiration from for your Asian dishes?
Cantonese for fish is always our favourite, and all the rest will be Sichuan, some Peking duck (it's a favourite amongst everybody) and different types of dumplings, with some soup dumplings [Xiao Long Bao] for sure.
The 2016 Oscars Menu
GF - Gluten Free
NF - Nut Free
DF - Dairy Free
- Curried Chicken Salad on Walnut Raisin Toast (DF) Chinese Chicken Salad on Wonton Crisp
- Roasted Red Hummus with Jicama Sticks (DF) Smoked Salmon Mousse on Cucumber (NF)
- Brioche Crostini with Seared Au Poivre Filet Mignon (NF)
- Tomato, Feta and Olive Skewer (Vegetarian, GF,NF) Shrimp Cocktail (GF,NF,DF, Contains Shellfish)
- Mini Burgers
- Assorted Pizzas
- Spicy Tuna Cones
On the Bars
- Root Vegetable Chips (Vegan,GF,NF,DF)
- Homemade Potato Chips (Vegan,GF,NF,DF)
Post Show Menu - 2016 Oscars Governor's Ball
Passed Hors d’Oeuvres
- Spicy Tuna Tartare Sesame Miso Cone (NF)
- Mini Burgers
- Aged Cheddar
- Remoulade (NF)
- Smoked Salmon Oscar Matzo (NF)
- Assorted Pizza (Some Vegetarian, Some Vegan, NF)
- Aged Cheddar Grilled Cheese with Roasted Tomato (Vegetarian, NF)
- Avocado Toast with Radish, Sea Salt and Finger Lime (Vegetarian,NF,DF)
- Grilled Fig Filled with Local Ricotta and Saba (NF,GF,Vegetarian)
- Pork Potsticker with Ponzu (NF)
- Taro Root Taco with Wild Mushrooms and Salsa Verde (Vegan, NF, GF)
- Crispy BiBimBap (NF, Vegetarian)
- Homemade Pretzels, Pimento Cheese (Vegetarian, NF)
- 5 Year Aged Gouda (Vegetarian, GF, NF)
- Parmesan Reggiano (Vegetarian, GF, NF)
- Deviled Eggs with Smoked Paprika (GF, NF,DF)
- Roasted Nuts with Rosemary, Cayenne, Sea Salt and Brown Sugar (GF)
- Fleur de Sel Breadsticks (NF,DF)
- Seeded Lavosh (NF, DF)
Poke, Sushi & Shellfish Station
- Variety of raw seafoods and molluscs
Passed Small Plates - Hot
- Baked Potato with Caviar (GF,NF) Chicken Pot Pie, Black Truffles (NF)
- Apple-Celery Root Soup with Black Truffle (Vegetarian) Baked Macaroni and Cheese (NF)
- Ancient Grain Risotto with Peas, Mushrooms and Pea Leaves (Vegetarian, NF)
- Wagyu Short Rib, Cauliflower Purée, Golden Raisins and Puffed Thai Rice (NF)
- Artichoke and Fromage Agnolotti, Black Winter Truffles (Vegetarian, NF)
- Dover Sole, Sweet Potato, Chili, Orange Miso Vinaigrette (NF, GF)
Passed Small Plates - Cold
- Baby Beets, Cara Cara Oranges, Frisee, Arugula and Shallot Vinaigrette Chopped Salad with Artichokes, Asparagus, Radicchio and Haricot Vert (Vegan, GF, NF)
- Chilled White Grape and Almond Gazpacho (Vegan, GF)
- Caramel Oscars Lollipops (GF, NF)
- Chocolate Chip Cookies (NF)
- Coconut Macaroons (NF)
- Chewy Cranberry Meringues (Pink Color) (GF, NF)
- Macaron Tower (Pistachio, Violet, Mango, Chocolate and Raspberry) (GF)
- Crunchy Pearl Chocolate Dome
- Raspberry Opera (NF)
- Strawberry Marshmallow (GF, NF)
- Bubble Banana/Strawberry Cheesecake Lollipop Freeze dried Strawberry (NF)
- Rum “Baba Savarin” Raspberry Gelee (NF)
- Mini Yuzu Tarte Tropezienne (NF)
- Dark Chocolate Brownie (NF)
- Tiramisu Push Pop (NF)
- Assorted WP Chocolate Bonbons, Bars, and Barks Strawberry White Chocolate Puffed Rice Rocher (NF) Kalamansi Pate De fruit (GF, NF)
- Milk Chocolate Peanut Butter Ring Dings
- Passion Fruit Mallomars (NF)
- Lemon Meringue Tart Lollipop (NF)
- Vanilla-Raspberry Religieuse (NF)
- Chocolate Fountain
Vegan and Gluten Free Items
- Coconut Cupcake
- Double Chocolate Cherry Cookies
Passed Small Plates - Dessert
- Chocolate Passion Layer Cake
- Chocolate Biscuits
- Banana Ice Cream
- Sweet Taco
- Pistachio Lady Finger
- Market Cherries & Raspberry Panna Cotta
- Champagne Caviar
- White Chocolate Décor Vanilla Bean and Hot Fudge Sundae
HBO Asia will be live streaming the Oscars on 29 Feb from 9.30am HKT.
You can also tune in on nowTV on ch115.