Dateline: Miami, (Little Havana)
Wolfgang Puck was
rolling cigars on 8th Street.
No wait. Wolfgang Puck was playing Dominoes with
the Cuban men in the late afternoon in Domino
Park. No. Lets try this. Wolfgang Puck was
chopping pork at Palacio de Los Jugos with a gray-haired
In the life is stranger than
fiction department all of the above sentences
are true and I was a Mittty-esque
like accomplice to the events. Yet it was, in
hindsight, a very normal day. Why? Because Wolfgang
Puck is at home in the world.
There are few people Ive met
that are so comfortable in their own skins. The
man you have seen on television is the man you
ride down the street in a convertible with as
if he was a cousin, a co-worker, a pal just caught
up in the quotidian world you are if you are a
chef, a foodie, or just another human looking
for a moment of culinary resurrection.
Heres the deal with Wolf.
Hes just like you and me. That is if you
and me were running 100 million dollar a year
corporation. Yet, here we were, sitting casually
at El Pub, on a break with his 6-person
TV crew eating a Pan Cubano sandwich and drinking
Coca-Cola and our non-English speaking waitress
from Oriente, Cuba recognized him from The Home
Shopping Network. Which means he is not exactly
like you and me. But
What you will love about Wolfgang
Puck is that he is not a wolf at all.
Perhaps no man is more improperly named for his
first name yet so well named for his last
the Shakespearean sense.
After watching him cook, not only
at his world famous Spago restaurant in L.A. but
also with me at our theater kitchen as we taped
for his TV show. I can say that what his magic
is is not some prestidigitation of ingredients
and techniques but his nearly uncanny perception
of knowing what the public wants. That is no mean
feat, my friends. He could cook anything if he
chose; any convoluted, multi-dimensional, pull
a rabbit out of hat dish that Ferran Adrià
could conjure but he simply chooses not too. He
cooks for his guests. His forte is more like the
ability of Tom Hanks than John Malkovich. He doesnt
remake himself for the audience
. he gives
them what they want. And they want him.
How crazy is that?
If he were my child I might have
named him Fox.
I'm Norman Van Aken and that's my word on
Copyright, 2002 ©
by Norman Van Aken