Five Minutes With Celebrity Chef Wolfgang Puck
The famed restaurateur talks about his new Las Vegas Spago location and how he keeps his regulars coming back.
Are you excited for the opening of the new Spago restaurant in the Bellagio hotel next spring? “I think change is good. So, we need to stir it up a little bit and change.”
When did your first Las Vegas outpost of Spago open up? “You know we were there 25 years at the Forum [at Caesars Palace]. We were the first restaurant there and now you have 50 of them. I think we started the whole trend. I think it’s great for us to move over to the Bellagio because they really have most of our customers from LA or New York. They go to Vegas and stay in three hotels maybe, they stay in the Wynn, the Palazzo or in the Bellagio.”
You helped create Las Vegas dinning, do you now need to…“Reinvent ourselves? Yes! Totally. You know the Spago in Beverly Hills, I thought we had plateaued for a few years and then I said ‘if we don’t change now, we’re going to go downhill and then it’s too late.’ For our Spago in Las Vegas it’s the same. It’s high time to change.”
Is it hard to change given that Spago has so many signature dishes? “We have to update it. So what we do is we mix tradition with innovation. So that way even if we don’t have [a dish] on the menu, like people come to Spago and say ‘I want the wienerschnitzel,’ if we have the meat we’ll for sure make it for them. Even if at dinner time somebody say ‘I want a hamburger like you do at lunch time,’ we make it.”
You have one of the most loyal followings. What’s the secret? “If you give people great service, hospitality and good food, they will come back. Because they’ll always try the newest place but they’re not recognized, they don’t know what they like. Spago in Beverly Hills is open 35 years. Our best year was last year. So, we must do something right.”
You’ve always been good at pulling in influences from around the globe. Where are you looking for inspiration these day? “In Las Vegas and LA, I think I want to get some more Latin influences. I have all of these influences from the East, from Europe and very little from Latin America and South America.”
What other trends are you tracking? “I see a trend towards healthier food and healthier ingredients, then there ever was before. I think the diet thing is going away maybe and healthy food is going to be more popular.”
Obviously, your role has evolved as you now run an empire of restaurants. Do you miss being behind the stove and cooking? “Do you miss when you were 19-years-old or 20-years-old when you went to every club and did drugs and got drunk. Yes, sometimes probably. But most of the time I am happy with the evolution of life.”
Interview has been condensed and edited.