Running time:78 minutes
Director:David Gelb
Release date:25 june 2021
As a teenager in Austria, Wolfgang Puck harnessed his love of cooking to escape the harsh rule of his stepfather. A local apprenticeship forged his path to train at a revered French restaurant before landing in America at age 24. In 70s Hollywood, Puck began working at Ma Maison, crafting an original menu around fresh ingredients, making the once-tacky eatery a popular, acclaimed darling. Still, the lack of acknowledgement from Ma Maison's owner pushed Puck to take the biggest risk of his career and open his first restaurant, Spago, an instant hit where famous clientele dote equally on Puck's new American cuisine and personality. Almost by accident, Puck created the concept of a celebrity chef with his decades-spanning television appearances, building a staggering global empire of restaurants, cafes and products for home cooks. But at home, the frenetic professional demands disrupted his family life.

Mulder's Review

The new Disney + exclusive documentary helps answer the question of who Wolfgang Johannes Topfschnig (better known as Wolfgang Puck), one of the world's top chefs, restaurateur and business owner and host of several American television shows, really is. After being born in Austria, Wolfgang Puck moved to the United States at the age of 24 to escape his parents (more precisely his stepfather) and try to live his passion for cooking to the fullest. Directed by David Gelb (Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011), Lazarus Effect (2015), Marvel 616 (2020)), this excellent documentary tells us the story of a passionate man who never stopped running to escape a future that would have been dictated to him in order to live from his passion and the fact that being in a kitchen is for him a true pleasure in which his creative spirit in perpetual action leads him to totally redefine the current cuisine. 

Through several interviews with Wolfgang Puck, Barbara Lazaroff, Gelila Assefa, Nancy Silverton, Evan Funke, Ruth Reichl, Laurie Ochoa and Michael Ovitz, Wolfgang totally captures our attention and allows us to better understand how Wolfgang Puck was able to create a real empire with several restaurants and a homonymous brand of different dishes offered in American supermarkets. This documentary also shows us how Wolfgang Puck's mythical first restaurant, Spago, created in 1982, allowed him to become a real star in the United States and to attract the attention of several American TV channels to propose him to appear in TV shows. 

If Wolfgang is a fascinating documentary, it is because it takes a true look at a man who never stopped working and trying to innovate. His important work in the world of cooking has put the spotlight on chefs who were too often put in the shadow of the spotlight, which only focused on the owners of luxurious restaurants. We also learn how one of his most famous dishes came about, the Pizza with homemade smoked salmon and caviar. Wolfgang Puck gives himself away completely, explaining that he should have given more space to his family instead of trying to expand all the time. By building a real empire, he has become one of the most influential and appreciated people in the United States and has appeared in the cult animated series The Simpsons, but also lent his eyes to the Smurf cook.

One of the things that stands out in this documentary is the important impact that France has had on Wolfgang Puck's creative taste. He apprenticed with Raymond Thuilier at the Oustau de Baumanière in Baux-de-Provence and at Maxim's Paris. After having learned a lot in France, he succeeded in restoring the reputation of a restaurant that was highly appreciated by the Hollywood milieu, My House, for which he was a recognized and highly appreciated chef. It is also from there that he understood that a chef must be seen working to gain the esteem of his customers and a significant reputation.

Director David Gelb's view shows us how important it is for Wolfgang Puck to choose his dishes perfectly from carefully selected farmers and producers. His know-how was relayed to different people allowing him to open more than 60 restaurants around the world (mostly in the United States).  In April 2017, Wolfgang Puck received his star on Hollywood Boulevard and is now remembered as a true visionary who has forever changed the world of cuisine.

Wolfgang is carefully selected to show us how Chef Wolfgang Puck is immersed in the original creation of his dishes and how this virtuoso has established himself as a true genius in the kitchen. This documentary not only proves to be a total immersion in a refined universe but also totally opens our appetite. It's clear that the next time I'm in Los Angeles, Spago will be on my culinary agenda.

Directed by David Gelb
Produced by Jason Sterman, Brian McGinn, David Gelb
Written by Brian McGinn
Starring Wolfgang Puck, Barbara Lazaroff, Byron Puck, Christina Puck, Nancy Silverton, Evan Funke, Ruth Reichl, Laurie Ochoa, Michael Ovitz
Music by Stenfert Charles
Cinematography : Will Basanta
Edited by Arielle Zakowski, Brad Grossman 
Production companies : Supper Club
Distributed by Disney+
Release date : June 12, 2021 (Tribeca), June 25, 2021 (United States)
Running time : 78 minutes

Seen on June 13, 2021 (Tribeca Festival)

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