When Tim Joseph and Chelsea Semaken learned Wolfgang Puck was making a rare appearance at South Coast Plaza, the couple changed their return flight home to Alaska so they could meet the culinary icon.
“He’s no question one of the leading cooks in the world,” Joseph said while waiting in line to meet Puck on a recent Saturday.
The ever energetic Puck didn’t disappoint the millennial foodies, who crowded the recently renovated Wolfgang Puck Kitchen bistro at Macy’s to meet the Austrian-born chef. Over his 44-year-career in the U.S., Puck founded a culinary empire in Los Angeles but now spans the globe. Hollywood’s original celebrity chef, his standard of excellence and innovation is one that most chefs dream of emulating.
Yet he never takes his success for granted. At age 68, he continues to develop new restaurants, write cookbooks — and most recently — attend an Ivy League university.
“That’s one of the things that makes him so terrific — he stays relevant,” said fan Branden Silks, 37 of Anaheim.
Relevance means taking risk.
In the spring, Puck opened The Rogue Experience in West Hollywood. The 12-course tasting table is limited to eight guests. They pay $155-$175 per person for an extravagant experimental menu created by Puck’s team of fine dining chefs. Around the same time, he enrolled in an entrepreneurial management program at Harvard Business School.
“We don’t sit on our laurels,” Puck said during his Orange County visit.
He arrived solo at South Coast Plaza, dressed in jeans and a blue chef’s coat.
Though he didn’t have an entourage, one thing was clear.
He is a star.
As the staff learned of his arrival, everyone grew giddy and pulled out their phones, ready to snap photos. “He’s here,” someone shouted.
Melissa Higgins, dining with a friend and their two young daughters, said: “Oh my god! It’s Wolfgang Puck!”
Employees set up a receiving line for the beloved chef, who received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in April. Next year, he’ll cater the Governors Ball at the Academy Awards for the 24th time.
Striding into the restaurant, he beamed with pride as he checked out the new furniture, lights and bar.
“It looks wonderful,” he said, his familiar Austrian accent as thick as ever.
After shaking hands with his staff, he immediately began working the room, a signature since his Hollywood nights at the original Spago. He chatted with customers dining on his famed wood-fired pizzas. They…