What Wolfgang Puck Really Ate As A Kid

Internationally acclaimed chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck started his illustrious, decades-long career in France and made his fortune in the United States. But his childhood was a difficult one, as he has spoken about on numerous occasions. Born Wolfgang Johann Topfschnig, Puck grew up poor in Sankt Veit an der Glan, a small town in Southern Austria not far from the Italian border. He took the last name Puck when his mother married his stepfather, Josef Puck, a violent and abusive man who made life pretty miserable for young Puck and his mother. That motivated Puck to leave home as soon as he could; he got his first apprenticeship at the age of 14 in a town nearby, per Life & Thyme.

Puck's first restaurant job didn't come without obstacles: "The chef there was almost the same as my stepfather. ... Just like my stepfather always told me I'm good for nothing, the chef said, 'You're not good enough. You can't work here." Fortunately for Puck, and for his countless admirers around the world, he found kinder, more constructive mentors and went on to make history as a chef. While Puck associates his stepfather with mistreatment and unhappy childhood memories, his mother and her cooking were a bright light, despite their financial constraints. "The kitchen was the only place where I felt safe," he said in the documentary "Wolfgang" (via People).

Puck's favorite childhood foods are pretty relatable

Though Puck's mother was a cook, she didn't make fancy food at home. Instead, she employed her skills through her creative use of the little money they had. The family had a small vegetable garden where they planted, gathered, and ate their own produce, and they also kept chickens and ate eggs regularly. During the summer months, they would gather wild berries and eat those as well. As Puck told Life & Thyme, he ate a truly "farm-to-table" diet, which is trendy by today's standards. "The funny thing was, I always thought something store-bought was much better. For me, a can of pineapple was a luxury item. Not our apples or plums," he said.

In the winter, when produce was scarce, the family diet included lots of potatoes and pasta. Once a week they'd have meat, and since veal was too expensive, his mother would prepare pork schnitzel instead. As Puck told People en Español, "The smell of it, I can smell it even today" (via People).

But perhaps most relatable is Puck's first and fondest childhood memory. He vividly recalls his mother's hot chocolate, a drink that was a lot more involved than stirring powdered mix into hot milk. "It was quite an ordeal; milking the cow, skimming the milk, tempering the chocolate — it could take hours," he told Luxury London. "But it was worth it." Sounds spectacular. Farm-to-table hot chocolate: It's the stuff that dreams and memories are made of.