If you're an entertainment junkie (and even if you're not), you know that the Oscars includes fanfare galore. When it comes to Oscars food, the culinary celebration is equally amazing. About 1,500 guests attend the annual Governors Ball, the post-awards bash for which famed chef Wolfgang Puck has been creating the menu for the last 17 years.
If you think you have to be a celebrity or travel to one of Chef Puck's numerous restaurants around the world to take pleasure in his food, think again! You can enjoy a Wolfgang Puck-inspired meal at home and Chef Puck himself tells us how.
SheKnows: You're a world-renowned chef surrounded by glamour, famous people and upscale dining establishments. How do you transition from that world to one where you collaborate with Campbell's Soup to create food products, like your new Wolfgang Puck Pasta Sauce, for the average home cook?
Wolfgang Puck: Customers in my restaurants, famous and not, don't eat like that every day. Sometimes, when you're eating at home, you need something to help make you a better cook. It's great when you can get fresh produce for cooking, but when it's not available -- like fresh tomatoes, for example -- a good product like this pasta sauce can help. You can add things to it like fresh basil, grated Parmesan cheese or chili flakes -- whatever you like, but you'll have a great base to start.
SheKnows: What would you say to someone who told you that he or she doesn't have time to cook meals at home and, instead, relies on restaurants and fast food for meals?
Wolfgang Puck: One of the big problems in America is obesity and poor nutrition because people rely too much on fast food restaurants for meals. It's easy to cook at home. For example, you could easily make spaghetti with my tomato basil sauce. It's inexpensive and you can add a small salad to the meal, too. That way you have a more nutritious meal that is easy to make, and it's inexpensive.
Or, instead of giving everyone a 6-ounce portion of meat with the meal, add some of the meat to the pasta sauce. That way everyone gets a few ounces of meat, some carbohydrates with the pasta and vegetables with your salad. Kids eat it too and you can make a good meal in just a little time!
The pasta sauce can be used for so many different things, which is great. If you want to make a slow cooked beef stew, for example, add the tomato basil or arrabbiata sauce. Not only does it add great flavor, but it gives beautiful color, too.
If you don't really know how to cook fish, the sauce is a good thing to use. It works well for fish like swordfish or sea bass, too. Just put the fish in a pan with some of the sauce over it and a little olive oil on top, and bake it. You could add olives or capers to it. At the end, drizzle a bit more olive oil over it and sprinkle it with some basil. You have an easy dish and the fish won't be dry. The sauce helps to keep it moist.
SheKnows: What advice would you give to home cooks about the importance of food?
Wolfgang Puck: Just be a little adventurous, but you have to cook for the kids the same way you cook for yourself, and the kids will eat it. I have a family with little kids. I take my little ones to the farmers market with me to buy fresh vegetables. We always have steamed vegetables with a little olive oil and sea salt, or a salad at our meals. My kids see me eating a salad or vegetables and they'll do the same. We are a great influence on our kids.
"My kids see me eating a salad or vegetables and they'll do the same. We are a great influence on our kids."
SheKnows: What emphasis do you put on eating organic produce?
Wolfgang Puck: Ideally speaking, eat organic when you can. But it can be expensive and a lot of families cannot afford that. But that doesn't mean that you can't buy fresh vegetables. They might not be organic, but you still can get your fill of vegetables. Most people can go to a local store to buy broccoli and spinach, and it would be better than eating fast food. If you can, buying organic is the best, but if you can't, it's not an excuse not to eat vegetables.
SheKnows: Do you have any good ideas to help parents to get their kids to eat their vegetables?
"... you have to lead by example and get them involved in the kitchen and when you buy your food, too."
Wolfgang Puck: I think you have to lead by example and get them involved in the kitchen and when you buy your food, too. Sometimes I'll make the Spago pizza at home -- but I give my kids their vegetables first. I don't tell them there is pizza! Again, you need to set an example. My kids don't see me eating french fries while I serve them broccoli. I don't think there is any secret. Show the kids beautiful vegetables, and they'll like them! Kids have good taste!
SheKnows: Can you give me one no-fail cooking tip?
Wolfgang Puck: I think the most important thing, if you've never cooked, is to get a cookbook that isn't complicated -- one that uses four to six ingredients in each recipe. Read the recipe a few times to get an idea of what you need to do. When you're at the market, buy seasonal ingredients and find a recipe to use for those things. Don't complicate it!
SheKnows: Do you have a favorite food memory from your childhood?
Wolfgang Puck: I grew up in Austria and we ate a lot of sweets! I loved when my mom would make palatschinke (similar to a crêpe) with marmalade in it, or Kaiserschmarrn, which is a similar thing, like a big pancake, with nuts and raisins and fruit compote. But I also used to love Wiener schnitzel, you know, the breaded pork or veal cutlets. We used to fry them in half oil, half pork fat and serve it with a salad. That always used to be one of my favorites.
SheKnows: Congratulations on your 18th year as the chef for the Oscars Governors Ball! How do you keep your cool when you're responsible for such a large crowd?
Wolfgang Puck: I have about 300 people assisting in the kitchen, so I supervise, mostly. We have a fabulous team in place.
SheKnows: How is menu planning and cooking for celebrities at this large event like cooking at home?
Wolfgang Puck: They're both a team effort! Try to get everyone in your home involved in some way!
Up next: Wolfgang Puck's new sauces and a recipe >>