Chef Wolfgang Puck and His Endless Summer Barbecue Tips
Wolfgang Puck may have licensed restaurants around the globe from Singapore to Cincinnati, including a portfolio of 26 fine dining venues, but he is still a Beverly Hills treasure with three local eateries. When most would consider slowing down, the James Beard and Emmy award-winning Puck is just getting started. He’s gearing up to open multiple concepts in the Pendry Hotel on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood early next year.
In many respects, Puck has come full circle. The new property will be very close to where he started his journey to legendary epicurean status when he opened the original Spago in West Hollywood 35 years ago. Tucked up on a hillside adjacent to Tower Records on Sunset, the late-great power agent Swifty Lazar started hosting Oscar parties at this venue in the 1980’s. The rest is culinary history. The unflappable chef still cooks every year for the 1,500 VIP guests at the Governor’s Ball following the Academy Awards.
Puck’s famous smoked salmon pizza changed the way America looked at California cuisine. It also redefined fine dining in America, so a permanent move into a chicer and larger flagship location on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills seemed to be the natural progression.
These days, whether you’re on the patio for lunch at Spago (yes, they still have that pizza), in the sleek Richard Meier-designed dining room at Cut waiting to slice into a Wagyu steak or sitting by the cozy fire at Hotel Bel Air, it’s absolutely uncanny how the world’s most famous chef will breeze though the space shaking hands, air kissing friends and waving across the room to delighted diners.
After all these years, Puck still manages to cook, teach and socialize with the energy of the hottest Saturday night party in town. He also seems to be everywhere at once. And, that’s not to mention WP24 downtown at the Ritz Carlton, a test kitchen in the Pacific Design Center or his second L.A. eatery, Chinois in Santa Monica.
Despite his unquestioned success, the chef is not in it simply for the limelight and adulation. An exhaustible humanitarian, Puck has hosted an end-of-the summer barbecue for the past five years with executive chef Hugo Bolanos. The event at the Hotel Bel-Air combines Puck’s love of grilled meats on an open-flame with his charitable passions. A portion of the proceeds benefits The Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and all excess prepared food is redistributed to those in need through the Chefs to End Hunger Initiative.
This year, other acclaimed chefs such as Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (Jon & Vinny’s), Burt Bakman (SLAB), Evan Funke (Felix), Tim Hollingsworth (Otium), and Francis Mallmann, creator of Los Fuegos restaurant at Faena Hotel Miami Beach, joined the party.
The carnivore’s dream ticket encompassed a causal evening on the hotel front lawn not far from the famous floating swans. The atmosphere felt more like the chef’s private backyard, complete with smoke billowing from the grill and guests spilling a few cocktails while trying to juggle various samples of delicacies on the bone.
The Courier caught up with Puck at the festive barbecue to find out the secret to his perfectly charred and seared cuts of beef. Try these at home during the real summer months in Los Angeles, September and October.
For master chef Puck, California grilling is not limited to the seasons.
“I grill at home all the time,” he tells the Courier. “My favorite cut of meat to grill is the Porterhouse steak, which is perfect to share with my family, or a grass-fed tenderloin. My children absolutely love the grass-fed tenderloin. Aside from red meat, I love grilling butterfly chicken, it’s so juicy when it’s grilled.”
Wolfgang Puck’s Top Five Barbecue Tips
1. Light your fire: Light the briquettes at least one hour before you expect to grill. You want to grill only over red-hot coals, not over direct flame. Be Patient! Good food takes time.
2. Tis’ the season: Another thing to do one hour prior to grilling is to season the meat. Flavors need sufficient time to permeate the meat properly. Rub your meat with a little oil before you grill as this will prevent the meat from sticking to the grill.
3. Be patient: Allow the meat to come to room temperature before cooking. This will lower the cooking time as well as aid in even cooking of the meat.
4. Let’s get to grilling: Start by cooking meat on high heat first because this will sear in all of the juices and start the caramelization. Don’t move the meat around a lot because this will not help it cook. Let the grill do the work. Once the meat is seared, move to medium heat. This will cook the meat evenly without drying it out.
5. Rest assured: Allow the meat to rest for at least 10 minutes pulling it off the grill. This will help keep all of the good juices in. This will also give you time to get all of the sides and sauces on the table before you serve your dish.