The breezy tribute to Wolfgang Puck is a low-key, easygoing tribute. “Wolfgang” is notable for the extent to which he can be credited — or blamed — with the emergence of the celebrity chef. While this might not be worthy of full Disney+ documentary treatment, however, it is worth mentioning for anyone who is even remotely interested in the subject.
“Wolfgang is without a doubt the most famous celebrity chef,” Nancy Silverton, chef/author, says. Director David Gelb continues to describe the humble beginnings of Puck, an Austrian-born child of a single mother who was later raised by an abusive stepfather. He told him that boys hanging out in the kitchen was unmanly.
Puck arrived in America and worked his way up to take over Ma Maison’s kitchen. After that, he opened Spago on his own. Ruth Reichl, a food writer, said that Puck had “changed Americans’ perception of what a chef is.” This was illustrated by clips from his media appearances.
The experts point out that being a chef was a relatively low-paid job. Only the wealthy enjoyed the limelight. Wolfgang is a showcase of the many cooking shows and chefs that have made reality television a viable option. The network supports them with a variety of programs.
Puck says that he was driven by fear of failure and, in an old story, he threw himself into his professional pursuits at great cost to his personal life. “Wolfgang” is a little too sappy at these points, right down to the music cues. However, he documents what is undeniably an American success story, punctuated with older footage of celebrities flocking his restaurants.
As is often the case with Puck, his influence in his chosen field tends not to outweigh his personal qualities. Interviewees include Michael Ovitz, a former super-agent. However, it’s difficult to talk enough about Puck’s showmanship when selling the amazingness he represented. We get instead anecdotes about Johnny Carson buying Spago Pizzas and freezing them. This supposedly gave the chef the idea to expand into frozen food.
Yet, Wolfgang shows how his namesake influenced the world of food and how it is perceived. He also made a very happy life for himself. It’s worth the effort, even though it’s not the main dish, but it is worth it.