My Pizza With Wolfgang

Watching chef Wolfgang Puck prepare his Oscar menu for Robin Roberts on Good Morning America  and later today for the crew of The Chew, brought back a nearly suppressed memory.

Puck was one of the first true celebrity chefs on television.  Today there seem to be hundreds trying to wear that moniker.  Mr. Puck gets more face-time on television at this time of year than any other.  That’s because  for the past eighteen years now he has prepared the food for the Governors Ball at the Academy Awards.

Anyway, Wolfgang Puck once made a pizza by hand for me and served it to me himself.  And, there wasn’t a camera crew in sight.  True story.

It was the night before the public opening of the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas in 1993.  I was one of a couple hundred journalists there to cover it. Mr. Puck was opening one of his California Pizza Kitchen restaurants inside the MGM.  (This was before there was one in every other major airport in the country.)

There were only a few other people in the restaurant when I walked in. Surprisingly, there he was.  Wolfgang Puck himself was working in the kitchen, unannounced, with a few others.  Even more surprisingly, he came over to my table and said, “Vat can I get you?”  I asked him for a pizza–pepperoni with sun-dried tomatoes and something else, I think.

The kitchen was an “open” one, so I watched him toss the dough himself, make the pizza and put it in the oven.   I remember he ate a lot of the raw ingredients as he was making it. I also remember thinking, “Is this a dream?”

I snapped a picture of him with a couple sitting at the next table using their camera.  As I was getting ready to point and click, he said, “Say cheese!”  Apparently, he had been asked for a picture a few thousand times before.

Eventually, he served me himself.  The pizza was good.  It wasn’t pork belly dumplings, smoked salmon on Oscar-shaped flatbreads, bite-sized Kobe sliders, lobster tacos and miniature chocolate Oscars covered in edible gold like they’ll be munching on Sunday night at the Governors Ball, but it was good.