Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck worked with his team at his namesake, Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar, earlier this week. the first in what the team hopes will be a national chain, the Phillips place restaurant is offering dinner Monday-Saturday, but is set to open for lunch in July. according to Puck’s team, Charlotte was one of six cities considered to test the concept. since Puck is no stranger to Charlotte – or Price’s Chicken Coop – he was more than happy to come again.
Q: after closing one of your quick-casual locations here a few years ago, what drew you back to Charlotte?
(The Wolfgang Puck Express franchise) just wasn’t our style of doing things. But now, if we make a mistake, it’s ours. and if we do well, it’s ours. Now we’re in 100 percent control.
It’s a nice city with lots of young people and upward (movement) … I like Charlotte. I know (Carolina Panthers owner Jerry) Richardson, I love the fact you have Johnson & Wales, it’s not too far from the ocean (for seafood) … It’s an educated state and people take eating seriously. It’s a good place to be.
Q: you recently won the James Beard Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award and are credited as “revolutionizing” the way American chefs think. what do you think you helped change?
It’s hard to speak of what I did or didn’t do. I brought a revolution in how people did business. When I opened Spago 30 years ago, there were very few chef-owned restaurants, or if the chef owned it, they were there all the time. Spago was one of the first to have an open kitchen. It’s easier to run and it gives people something to talk about. I was one of the first (chefs) on television, “the Tonight show,” “David Letterman,” before Food Network even had a kitchen. that makes me an old guy (laughs).
Q: You’re also known for your humanitarian efforts and have worked locally with second Harvest Food Bank. Should Charlotte expect to see more of this side of you?
We’re getting involved with the schools, because if we want the community to be interested in us, we have to be interested in the community.
Q: from fine dining to TV shows to your own line of kitchenware, you’ve tried just about everything. What’s next?
I’m still interested in the new. why not move forward, why not innovate? It’s always exciting to do something new… trying to make things better. That’s what I love about cooking.
(The restaurant and experience) doesn’t have to be fancy. I want people to have fun and the only serious thing should be on the plate.