SYNOPSIS: An intimate portrait of the life and work of the original "celebrity chef," Wolfgang Puck.
Wolfgang Puck is definitely a name you are familiar with if you are a foodie or a fan of gastronomic delights.
From David Gelb, director of the acclaimed Jiro Dreams of Sushi comes another documentary on food. This time, Gelb shifted his focus on Wolfgang Puck, the culinary world’s first celebrity chef, long before Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver makes their presence on television.
Wolfgang is a simple yet effective profile on the charismatic, hardworking chef that helmed from Austria. Born an illegitimate son, the young Wolfgang subsequently left home at the age of 14 due to the mistreatment from his stepfather to peel potatoes at a hotel before going to France to pick up his culinary skills.
In the 70’s, he decided to move to Los Angeles where he began to work at a struggling restaurant before opening “Spago”, located on the famous Sunset Strip with his former wife, Barbara. It was an instant hit with Hollywood especially and Puck went on to appear on television and opening up more restaurants worldwide.
The documentary is wonderfully paced and edited with plenty of archival photographs and video footages. In case you need concrete proof that Johnny Carson bought a dozen pizzas and stars liked Arnold Schwarzenegger and Steven Seagal patronizing “Spago”. It’s a rags-to-riches story for sure though there’s never a minute on screen that hints of Wolfgang resting on his laurels at the age of 72. The man is born a workaholic and it shows. His passion in the kitchen is undeniable despite the fact that he expressed his interest to slow down and spend more time with his two younger sons from his second marriage.
There’s frequent switchback to Austria where we see Wolfgang having a nice sentimental catch up with his sister, Christina. Not likely the place which Wolfgang has lots of nice feelings for but still, a place where he forged his dreams and inspirations.
Indeed, this is a very serviceable documentary on the chef who gave the world his signature smoked salmon pizza and famous chinois chicken salad. There’s hardly any in-depth narrative if you are expecting more than a fluff piece but given that Wolfgang Puck has several restaurants all over the world (Singapore included), the subject matter is interesting enough to make it a watch even before you make the next reservation at CUT.
Review by Linus Tee