Wolfgang Johannes Puck was born in the Carinthia region of Austria, in July 1949. His mother was a pastry chef. Wolfgang Puck apprenticed with legendary chef Raymond Thuilier, at L’Oustau de Baumanière in Provence. He worked at the Hôtel de Paris in Monaco and at Maxim’s, in Paris, before crossing the Atlantic in 1973, aged 24.
After a stint at La Tour in Indianapolis, Puck moved to Los Angeles and took over the kitchen at Ma Maison (1973-1985) in 1975. He stayed until Spago opened, in 1982. Puck is credited with inventing ‘ California nouvelle’ a style of cooking which married French style with Californian produce, for the rich and famous.
Spago (1982-2001) was situated in WeHo (West Hollywood), won two Michelin stars and was the foundation stone for Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant and catering empire.
Wolfgang Puck Makes It Healthy (published in 2014) is Puck’s seventh cookbook since 1980 and in his eyes, healthy = low fat. As a college-trained former chef, it does upset me, that a Michelin-starred chef advocates cooking oil sprays and canola oil.
Despite this, there are some low carb recipes and quite a few recipes which are tweakable.
Steamed whole artichokes with Green Goddess dressing, red snapper crudo with fresh salsa, roasted garlic lemon yogurt aïoli and grilled Ahi tuna salade Niçoise are all low carb. Thai salad, stir-fried shrimp salad and sautéed wild mushrooms and peas also make the list.
Grilled loup de mer with tomatillo, avocado vinaigrette and cherry tomato salsa could be a low carb dinner party dish.
Cucumber yogurt sauce, grilled salmon, roasted tomatoes Provençal, grilled cauliflower steaks with pesto, sautéed wild mushrooms with garlic, shallots and balsamic vinegar, onion soubise, pressure cooker stocks..
and then, the ‘tweakables’. There are a lot of them, involving pasta for example, which can be subbed with konjac pasta, courgetti or sliced runner beans.
Soups, including Wolfgang Puck’s mother’s garden vegetable soup also succotash, skewers, lamb, shrimp, gratins, mash, chopped salad – there are over twenty tweakable recipes.
Besides the root vegetable medley and a couple of mash recipes, there’s nothing in the book which falls under the ‘comfort food’ category. Instead, this is food for a sophisticated lunch or supper by the pool, in a warm climate.
At the back of the book, is a section on floor exercises, with Wolfgang featuring in photos being coached. For basic exercises, they do seem like good ones.
In June 2016, Rosie obtained a signed first edition but she gave it away to Oxfam. Her loss is our gain.
Verdict: if you like to cook off-piste, tweaking recipes and experimenting, this is a book for you. If you want to follow a recipe and have the security of knowing that it has been cooked this way many times before, it’s not for you.
And what does Wolfgang Puck eat himself ? In January 2021, he featured in the Harper’s Bazaar video series ‘Everything I Eat in a Day’