all words: Nikki Bogopolskaya
all photos: Kimberly Cadena
What’s restaurateur Wolfgang Puck’s key to success? It’s simple, says the 61 year old celebrity chef extraordinaire—“we try to buy the best ingredients, and then we try not to fuck them up.”
This past Thursday, we had the chance to meet the pottymouth himself at his casual D.C. hotspot, The Source. Mr. Puck, along with The Source’s executive chef, Scott Drewno (of BYT what’s in yo fridge and last year’s RAMMY winner fame), spoke, fielded questions, and performed a cooking demonstration to the delight of avid fans at a private lunch at The Newseum .
As we drooled, we listened to Puck regale us (in an ever so adorable Austrian accent) with tales of his inspirations from the French Riviera to the islands of Asia. Puck charmed the crowd with his culinary history, his reasons for coming to America (“I wanted to get rich”), his early career woes (an Indiana restaurant which he got to via Greyhound bus that insisted he serve his steaks well done… and to add insult to injury didn’t even serve alcohol), the success behind his first L.A eatery, Spago (“a little spot in a pretty bad neighborhood in Hollywood, next to the hookers…but I didn’t mind because that meant I got them cheap!”) and his expansion to Atlantic City, Chicago, Orlando, Minneapolis, Detroit, and our very own Washington.
Drewno and Puck won our hearts with their lighthearted banter and our stomachs with their demonstration of how to make the perfect lobster eggdrop soup (not that we’ll ever try. We’ll stick to Ramen-noodles-in-a-cup, please, but we were ever so impressed) and plethora of free samples.
After their speech, the chefs invited guests to sample the best of The Source’s menus, buffet-style. We gorged ourselves on Asian-inspired delicacies such as Peking Duck, Steamed Bao Buns, Pork Pot Stickers, Shrimp Shumai, every type of sushi and flatbread imaginable, and a striped bass and lamb that the chefs hand-served to admiring fans.
An open bar ensured new friends aplenty, and as we munched on leek and mushroom flatbreads and maki and nigiri we found ourselves enough glasses of wine in to strike up a chat with the charming chefs themselves. Puck’s advice on Asian food? “Ginger, garlic, and scallions.” Drewno’s advice on moving up in the culinary world? “Always say ‘yes, chef.’” “That works in all of life, I think” Puck chimes in. “I didn’t even teach him that…his wife taught him that.”