I remember meeting Chef Wolfgang Puck for the first time years ago at the Oscars. It was a press preview of his legendary after-party menu he and the hundreds of cooks from his kitchen serve at the Governor’s Ball.
Even before tasting the unbelievable food and getting to chat with him, his name preceded him. You’d find his more recognizable first name on everything from frozen foods to restaurant marques. And that all was a product of the world getting to meet him through his numerous TV appearances alongside Hollywood’s A-list celebrities.
But beyond the fame and glamour of being widely accepted as the first “celebrity chef,” who was Wolfgang Puck before all that?
Disney+’s newest original documentary aims to share the beginnings of Wolfgang’s life, which ultimately shaped his career, too. Directed by famed food documentarian David Gelb (“Jiro Dreams of Sushi”), ‘Wolfgang’ is a beautiful, somber, and yet delicious tribute to a real chef who has and continues to overcome his own personal trials of being more than what he does.
We spoke with Wolfgang and David during a virtual press day to chat more about the documentary. Read our full interview below (edited and condensed for clarity)!
DE: Why did you decide to tell your story with David Gelb?
Wolfgang: Well, I think for me, it was very easy. I knew David’s work and how he presents chefs. I saw that through “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” and watched that with my son at the time and he wanted to immediately eat! So David does such a great job, and his work is known among us chefs around the world. He knows our business, which helps telling our types of stories.
DE: And David, what did you find fascinating in Wolfgang’s life that you thought could be turned into a great doc?
David: I mean, he’s the ultimate chef to make a film about! His story is absolutely incredible. It really is something that was fitting for Disney+ because it is about someone who comes from nothing but a dream. He follows through, he refuses to give up. He ultimately makes it because he says “I’ll never ever give up.” And I think that’s a really kind of beautiful story and something that’s very inspiring to everyone.
DE: Over the course of making the doc, what did you guys find fascinating or surprising about each other?
David: I think my favorite part of shooting was going to Austria with Wolfgang, because every restaurant we would go to, everyone knew him! He’s like the king of Austria in the eyes of the chefs there. And so they would all come out, they would bring out every single dish. And man, we really, we really ate well together. I think that’s one of the most fun things.
Wolfgang: It was great to have the documentary show how many people work with food! Restaurants need lots of people to work, so I often just felt like a tour guide of sorts. And then sometimes it was fun reliving my past, and sometimes it was a little difficult for me to be back there and get these feelings and telling the more difficult parts of my story, how I felt. Being an underdog, being somebody who was told is good for nothing and looking back to see how far I came? In a way, it’s an inspiring story for me to look back at, too. I mainly look at what’s happening now and looking forward, but I think it’s important for a lot of young people out there to see that if he can do it, they can do.
“Wolfgang” is now streaming exclusively on Disney+.
Our special thanks to Chef Wolfgang Puck and David Gelb for contributing to this story!