In the high-octane culinary world where restaurants come and go, few boast the same resilience as those run by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s restaurants. His first restaurant, Spago, which opened in 1982 in Los Angeles to much fanfare, is a much-feted Hollywood hangout and is still regaling generations of diners with its iconic Californian dishes. It has spawned seven outlets worldwide, including one in Marina Bay Sands.
Speaking to The Peak during a recent visit here to launch a raw bar at CUT by Wolfgang Puck (more on that later), the Austrian-born American chef-restaurateur, who runs around 20 restaurants in his culinary empire, shares that his proudest professional achievement is the longevity of his restaurants.
He points out that some of his concepts have stood the test of time in a competitive industry. Besides Spago, Chinois, an Asian-fusion restaurant in Santa Monica, turned 40 last year.
What is his secret to ensuring longevity in the dining scene? He says: “Like in any relationship, you have to work on it constantly, do new and different things to keep pushing ourselves and get people excited about it. We treat each day as if it were opening night.”
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To keep abreast of food trends, the sprightly 74-year-old draws inspiration from the younger generation, including his son, Byron Lazaroff-Puck, 28, who is poised to run the Wolfgang Puck empire, which also includes catering and retail arms, in the future.
Listening to his son’s experiences dining with friends, Puck adapted and introduced concepts and formats such as having bar bites with cocktails and serving desserts in sampler sizes to keep the dining experience fresh and exciting.
He sums up: “Young people are the future. They won’t come to our restaurant if we don’t make them happy today.”
Grooming the next generation
Injecting new blood into this vast restaurant group is his son Byron, who is gradually taking up an active role in the family business. Last year, the father-and-son duo toured a number of Wolfgang Puck restaurants in countries such as Singapore, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.
Byron, who is one of the two sons of his second wife, Barbara Lazaroff, an American interior designer and a partner of the Wolfgang Puck group, started Merois, a stylish rooftop restaurant that serves a menu of global flavours with Californian influences in West Hollywood in 2021. Over the past few years, Puck has been broadening his son’s culinary horizons through stints in France and Austria.
On Byron following his footsteps as a chef, Puck lets in: “My dream was always to keep the business in the family. I never dreamt about selling the restaurant or anything like that, because I still think that family is important.”
In a testament to Puck’s commitment to constant evolution and reinvention, his one-Michelin-starred steakhouse restaurant CUT in Singapore recently launched a raw bar after 13 years of operating in Marina Bay Sands. The sleek glass counter, which is near the restaurant’s entrance, features seafood such as sustainably sourced oysters from New Zealand, Alaskan king crabs, abalones handpicked by the Haenyeo divers in Jeju Island, as well as razor clams caught from the deep seas of Scotland.
Not forgetting its beef roots, the raw bar area will also feature rare beef cuts such as Hokkaido snow beef and Red Poll Heritage beef. Accompanying the raw bar are more than 10 new seafood dishes by CUT’s executive chef, Greg Bess. They include Alaskan King crab leg gratin with avocado and Kaluga caviar, grilled jumbo prawns, binchotan-grilled jade abalone, razor clam, uni, and guanciale.
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Up next for Puck is a new yet-to-be-named seafood-focused oceanfront restaurant in Malibu. Adding star power to the project is renowned architect Frank Gehry, who will be designing the building. The restaurant is slated to open later this year.
As we concluded our conversation, Puck’s passion for food and innovation clearly shines through, showing that the fervent embrace of change is essential for enduring success in the restaurant world.