What It's Really Like For Wolfgang Puck To Cater The Oscars

Those well-versed in food culture probably know chef Wolfgang Puck from his long and illustrious career, with restaurants spanning from Beverly Hills to Singapore to Istanbul (Wolfgangpuck.com). But if you're lucky enough, you may also know the famed restaurateur as the official caterer of the Academy Awards. If the Oscars handed out an award for Best Chef, it would likely go to Puck every time. After all, in 2020, he celebrated his 25th year in a row catering the big night, which is both a huge accomplishment and compliment (via GQ India).

Puck looks back on those 25 years with fond memories, but that doesn't mean they didn't come with their fair share of setbacks or difficulties. "At the beginning, we did get into some fights — one wanted fish, one wanted meat, etc. — until I told the board — 'I'll never tell you how to make a movie, and you don't tell me what to cook, and we'll all be friends,'" Puck told GQ India. Clearly, laying down the law worked, because nearly three decades later Puck is still sporting his chef's coat on the red carpet. These are some of the more memorable experiences the chef has shared over the years.

Mother Nature sabotaged Wolfgang Puck's first Oscars gig

One Oscars experience Puck is sure to never forget? How Mother Nature almost made his first year catering the event his last. This was back in the late '90s, per GQ India, and Puck had decided to prepare a black truffle risotto for the 1,500 guests in attendance. This decision proved very problematic come showtime.

Of course, on perhaps one of the biggest nights of Puck's career, Mother Nature decided to do its thing and downpour. Normally a little rain wouldn't be an issue for a chef; but, as luck would have it, the auditorium where the event took place didn't have an updated kitchen, so Puck had to build a makeshift kitchen "outside in the parking structure." Puck told GQ India, "I distinctly remember that nothing was cooking because the wind kept putting the fire out!" With time not on their side, the team made an aluminum barrier in an attempt to keep everything warm and did as much prep as possible at Spago, Puck's LA-based restaurant 12 miles down the road. In the end, everything worked out, but talk about worst case scenario!

Puck's chocolate 24 karat gold mini Oscars are a staple

In his long run as the official Oscars afterparty caterer, Wolfgang Puck has had to learn how to adapt his menu to accommodate attendees' dietary needs, whether it be a food allergy or more celebrities choosing to be vegan or gluten-free. But perhaps the biggest change Puck has had to adapt to is the switch from a plated, sit-down dinner to cocktails and hors d'oeuvres setup (via Food & Wine).

Puck managed to find a way to make it work, turning some of his signature dishes into bite-sized samplings — like the matzo with dill cream, smoked salmon, and caviar, which has been served in some form since his very first time catering the event. Guests have also come to expect Puck's infamous chocolate mini Oscar statues, which are dipped in 24-karat gold. Some of the chef's other dishes known for turning heads at the exclusive event are the Miyazaki wagyu beef, pea agnolotti, chicken pot pie with black truffles (Meryl Streep's favorite, says Food & Wine), and macaroni and cheese with winter truffles.

For Puck, variety is the spice of life

A-list celebrities may flock to the Oscars afterparty just for Wolfgang Puck's chicken pot pie, but the restaurateur likes to introduce new dishes every now and again to keep guests (and their taste buds) on their toes. Back in 2019, Puck took an unconventional approach and debuted one his most interesting dishes to date: Nashville hot fried chicken-inspired quail on a red velvet waffle. "I just thought it would be fun," the chef told Food & Wine.

Puck shared the motto "comfort food, but elevated," and he's used that inspiration to make the Oscars a food lover's paradise. The same year Puck introduced the fried quail, he also offered naked ricotta raviolis — a recipe passed down from his mother – with watercress pea pesto and brown butter. Going from caviar to fried quail to ricotta dumplings may seem odd, but the variety is intentional. Puck explained, "you get this experience where you say 'I just had a baked potato with caviar, now I'll have naked ravioli, then maybe I have some Miyazaki beef' and then if you're still hungry you try the agnolotti. It's really a great way to eat."