Interview Helen Brown
This summer saw renowned chef Wolfgang Puck – synonymous with the best in restaurant hospitality – bring his Hollywood magic to London. Spago, one of the world’s most glamorous restaurants, popped-up in Puck’s only London restaurant CUT 45 Park Lane. Fresh off the back of this, we caught up with him to talk recipes, restaurants and what he thinks of British food.
Tell us a bit about the Spago pop-up and what was the thinking behind it?
We brought Spago to London for a four-day pop-up to celebrate the 35th anniversary of my first restaurant in Los Angeles. Working with me in the kitchen were Tetsu Yahagi, the chef de cuisine of Spago in Beverly Hills and executive chef of CUT at 45 Park Lane, David McIntyre. It was a dream come true to bring my first restaurant in the world to my debut restaurant in Europe.
What are you hoping diners took away from the experience?
I really hope they enjoyed the hospitality; we spent a lot of time transforming CUT at 45 Park Lane into Spago, from the table furnishings to the guest journey, every detail was covered. I wanted everyone to leave with a taste of California and I think we achieved that.
Why choose 45 Park Lane as the home for CUT, your European debut?
Dorchester Collection is truly great brand and knows how to offer their guests a luxury experience. 45 Park Lane is also a very cool hotel with beautiful interiors by Thierry Despont and strong service ethic – it was a natural fit.
You started cooking at a very young age; did you always want to be a chef or was there any other career path that might have swayed you?
Cooking was a big part of my childhood and I love to create tangible and beautiful things. I also love art so my other dream would have been to be a painter or sculptor. I recently completed an executive management programme at Harvard University who knows where that might take me!
Where does your inspiration come from when drawing up new menus?
I believe cooking is like fashion – there is constant evolution if you want to stay in the picture. What was good 30 years ago won’t cut it today. And that’s why we spend time in the experimental kitchen so that we can develop new recipes, and use cutting edge technology.
What’s your opinion of British food?
I think the food scene here is amazing and I love that the British love their food and dining in general. In LA people want to run and get through the meal quickly whereas in the UK people take their time, this is appealing to me.
Where’s your favourite place to eat in London?
I always love visiting Nobu when I’m in town. I also have great memories of eating at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck in Bray.
Are there any cuisines that you might like to explore for future ventures?
I’m always open to new ideas.
Are there any chefs that have shaped your career or inspired you in any way?
Raymond Thuilier who was the chef and owner at Baumanière still had the passion when I was there – he was 72 at the time – still working at the stove and still making new recipes. That’s when I decided that one day, I wanted to be like this man.
I truly feel we changed the shape of dining when we opened Spago in 1982. We brought the kitchen to the heart of the restaurant and the chef as the face – that had never happened before but now it’s the norm.
What would your last meal on earth be?
A tin of beluga caviar accompanied by a bottle of Krug Clos du Mesnil!dorchestercollection.com