Austrian-American celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck has more than 40 years of experience and numerous accolades to his name, including two Michelin stars for his restaurant Spago Beverly Hills and one for his steak restaurant CUT in Singapore. He recently opened Spago Riyadh, and sat down with Arab News to discuss why he decided to expand into Saudi Arabia.
“I really think that Saudi Arabia is at the beginning of a culinary revolution. The country is so welcoming to us. We know many of our guests, from LA to London, come from Saudi and have been asking for a similar experience in their (country),” he explained. “Saudi consumers are well-traveled … They have a wide range of experiences with different cuisines and are extremely open-minded. They’re the perfect guests for us as we always like to do something new and exciting.”
Spago Beverly Hills has been a huge success, and Puck explained that much of that is down to access to fresh, top-quality ingredients.
“California is one of the best places for ingredients: the best veggies, fruits and berries,” he said. “We also have the ocean, prairies … (This) allows us to get the freshest produce in-house and use our techniques to try and get the best possible outcome on the plate. Plus, we are multicultural, so we get influences not only from Europe, but many Asian countries as well.”
Cooking was a natural career choice for Puck, he explained. “My mother was a chef, so it’s in my DNA. In this case, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” he said.
In addition to the chef’s obvious talent in the kitchen, he has built a worldwide restaurant empire with more than 30 eateries and lounge concepts around the world. Puck advised those who wish to follow in his footsteps to complement their culinary studies with business know-how.
“I always tell aspiring chefs to learn the numbers and the essence of building a financially successful restaurant. (That will) open doors that are closed to so many people,” he said.
As a kitchen team leader, Puck emphasized the importance of maintaining focus and setting clear goals.
“I’m always inspired by young chefs and their willingness to learn,” he said. “If I can help them along the way, I feel as though I am truly giving back to the industry.”