The Tragic Reason Cooking Was 'An Escape' For Wolfgang Puck

Many famous (and even not-so-famous) chefs pursue professional cooking simply because it's their passion. And while cooking is clearly Wolfgang Puck's true talent — and one he was able to turn into a successful career, no less — his reason for first stepping foot in the kitchen is much more real and much less glamorous than simply having an affinity for making a meal from scratch.

Food can mean a lot of different things to different people — comfort, family, security, indulgence — and for Wolfgang Puck, it meant all of that and more. In a recent piece by People, the famed Austrian culinary star opens up about a tough childhood and ongoing conflict with his stepfather, and explains how cooking for a living wasn't exactly in his plans initially. 

"I think it was mainly to escape my stepfather. Yes, I liked cooking but I didn't know that was going to be my life," he explained. "So for me it was more an escape at first." Puck details the abuse he faced from his stepfather, and says cooking was his way of not only escaping it but combatting painful experiences by replacing them with positive ones, saying the good memories of cooking balanced out the bad situation.

Wolfgang Puck explains why cooking was 'an escape'

Though Wolfgang Puck has mentioned his past before, it's only recently that the chef has really opened up about his troubled childhood, as his life is revealed in a new documentary on Disney+. In addition to suffering the abuse of his stepfather, Puck also has detailed growing up in poverty. Not only did he spend his childhood on a rural Austrian farm that didn't have running water, but he also faced the wrath of his stepfather when he was at home. What started as a young Puck offering to do farm work for a neighbor just to get out of the house became a very real need to leave home entirely. It was this feeling of hopelessness and a lack of belonging that led Puck to even contemplate taking his own life (via Daily Beast).

"At the end I said, you know what, people should know ... this is a good reason to talk about it," said Puck in the Daily Beast interview. "It could have gone the other way. It could have become that I had OD'd or become a drunk or whatever.'" It was at 17 that Puck left Austria with no intention of going back, and thus his culinary journey began — and remained one part of his life that always provided comfort. "As a kid, the kitchen was the only place where I felt safe," he has said (via Disney+).

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

If you or someone you know may be struggling with thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.