The Connection Between Wolfgang Puck And California Pizza Kitchen

Criminal defense lawyers-turned-pizza restaurateurs Larry Flax and Rick Rosenfield knew that if they wanted their establishment, California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) to capitalize on the growing fame of California-style pizza, they'd need to hire the best of the best to create the menu. At the time, that was Ed LaDou (via Mental Floss).

According to Eater Los Angeles, LaDou's big break in the pizza industry came in 1982 after he was poached by esteemed chef and restaurateur Wolfgang Puck. The gig? Pizza chef at Puck's new LA-based restaurant, Spago. The pizza that got him the role of a lifetime? A LaDou gourmet California pizza original: dough, sauce, ricotta cheese, red peppers, pâté, and mustard. Back then, combining nontraditional pizza toppings was unheard of — it was revolutionary, so of course, Puck had to get in on it before anyone else could. LaDou's creativity in the kitchen led to a new pizza phenomenon. "It was like being an artist who'd worked with 10 colors all of his life and then got to use 300," LaDou said, per the outlet.

As they say, the rest is history. Flax and Rosenfield sought out his expertise and creative genius when creating the menu for California Pizza Kitchen. From this partnership, the restaurant's signature BBQ Chicken pizza was born.

California-style pizza is the lovechild of New York and Italian-style pizza

Dubbed the "Father of Gourmet Pizza," Ed LaDou certainly left his mark in the pizza industry, inventing one of the most popular gourmet pizza styles known to man: California-style pizza (via Eater Los Angeles). His talents took him all over Los Angeles, first as a pizza chef at Wolfgang Puck's premiere restaurant, Spago, then his own establishment, Caioti Pizza Café, and as menu creator for California Pizza Kitchen. As a pizza chef, LaDou told PizzaTV that one of his favorite characteristics about California-style pizza is that no idea is off-limits. "I like the fact that it's a seasoned bread," he said. "You don't really have to follow any rules and you can improvise and be creative."

For those who are unfamiliar with California-style pizza, LaDou describes it as a hybrid between New York-style pizza and Italian-style pizza. "You totally upgrade your ingredients and you sprinkle them on really light like it's an Italian pizza, but you're using a New York kind of [thin] crust," LaDou explains. Traditionally, California-style pizza has a very light sauce or olive oil base, which is what LaDou perfected at Spago. For California Pizza Kitchen, he began to experiment with other sauces like barbecue, pesto, and more. Eventually, his imagination took him to a global level where he began creating internationally infused pizzas at CPK by utilizing peanut sauce (Thai pizza) and hoisin sauce (duck pizza).