The OG "celebrity chef" talks about his Disney+ documentary Wolfgang, and looks back on some of his favorite big screen culinary creations.
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Wolfgang Puck is known, publicly, for many things — celebrity chef, those many appearances on the Oscars red carpet with miniature chocolate Academy Awards, his popular restaurants Spago, Chinois, and CUT, his chain Express, his line of kitchen products. But fewer know everything that came before that — the abusive childhood at the hands of his stepfather, leaving home to prove to his stepfather he could do something with his life, the many jobs, and other restaurants that came before international fame.

But much of that is at the center of his Disney+ documentary, Wolfgang, directed by David Gelb (Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Chef's Table). Puck's life is like a multi-course meal, with some dishes more appetizing than others. But at the heart of it is a man who found drive and motivation at his lowest and became a huge success story.

"I thought about writing a book, actually, but then I thought, it's gonna take me forever and I'm never gonna finish it because writing is not one of the things I enjoyed the most — I'm not a writer," Puck tells EW about why he waited until now to share his story. "David Gelb really thought it would be a bigger story because we talked often, and he said, 'Maybe I should really do more like a biography on you instead of another Chef's Table,' so I said, 'Okay, let's do it. It will be a good thing for my children, because I wanted people to know me before I became Wolfgang Puck, who was well known in the restaurant business, and I want them to know that what adversity I had as a child maybe helped me to be who I am now. But also for young people today who don't grow up in a good household that, you know what, maybe there is a way out, maybe there's a way that they can be successful."

Puck's documentary is the latest in a robust line of films about chefs, restaurants, and food. He shared with us four of his favorite food films.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

"I think it's probably one of my favorite movies. I still remember when we watched it, we were with the family in Mustique in a hotel and we couldn't go to sleep because we were on the West Coast time, and then we found Netflix or HBO or wherever it was on at that time, and we were lying with my then 6-, maybe 7-year-old son Oliver on the bed watching it because he couldn't sleep. And Jiro was making the sushi and tried to make it so perfect and everything, Oliver was looking at us saying, 'Papa, I'm so hungry. Let's go and eat. Let's go and eat! I'm so hungry. This makes me so hungry!' It was so cute to see a young kid, who wasn't really maybe into sushi at that time get so excited seeing his older man making sushi and getting hungry on it."

Chef

"I really thought this saw chefs in a different way and you can see Jon Favreau is passionate about food and he directed it like maybe he wanted to be a chef too. And he wants to be a chef — I did a few small things with them for TV, I think for Netflix. I like him a lot because he really loves food and he really likes to cook, and I still remember when he came to the [Hotel Bel-Air] — we did an event there — and he said, 'I cook too,' so I said, 'Oh, yeah? Make me an omelet.' [Laughs] So he made me an omelet and I threw it in the garbage, so... [Laughs]... I think it's probably one of my favorite movies about food because it's a family thing. I think that's really great. We need a manager chefs meeting in Las Vegas and I showed them the movie, and then we had Jon Favreau speak to everybody — it was really a great thing and I think he's such a good guy, I like him a lot."

Ratatouille

"I love it so much because it's really a movie in a way made for kids but everybody grown-up watches it. I think it's really one of the big movies, one of the important movies, the way they shot it, and I think it's really rare to see a movie with such a universal appeal. That's the last thing you want to see in a kitchen is a rat."

Big Night

"I liked it a lot because here you had one restaurant owner and one brother who made this really upscale Italian food. And he tried to teach the people how to eat it, and we had that here in L.A. a little bit. I remember when Rex downtown was an amazing restaurant and my friend, Mauro [Vincenti], who is not with us any longer, tried to do his amazing Italian food, people walked in and says, 'Can I get the chicken parmesan and can I get just some spaghetti and meatballs? And he looked at them. 'What are you doing here? We have a beautiful restaurant and we make great dishes.' [Laughs] And then next door you'll have this restaurant, like a trattoria — I'm not saying it's bad, but with simple food and they have a line out the door. And he looks and says, 'Why not me?' And I don't remember everything exactly but I saw in a way it was such a disheartening thing, when you try to be inventive, when you try to do something different, but you don't have the public. And today because of television and all this food competition and all these food shows, I think people much more like to go away from tradition to go to innovation, to experiment — they are much more open-minded to get great things that are interesting; it doesn't have to be chicken or eggplant parmesan anymore."

Wolfgang is available to stream on Disney+.

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