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The Robb Reader: Wolfgang Puck

Jessica Taylor

Last year, wolfgang puck celebrated the 25th anniversary of his famed restaurant, Spago, which recently received two Michelin stars; he opened a new restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, in Colorado; and he married handbag designer Gelila Assefa, the mother of his two small children, in Italy. We caught up with the Austrian chef on his return from Capri, where he celebrated his one-year wedding anniversary with his family, and asked him what the near future holds. "I’m going to be 60 years old next year, so I’m looking forward to that," he says. "We haven’t made any plans yet, but I would love to go back to Capri and have a celebration there. I also want to go to Spain and Greece. But I’m still adjusting to turning 59, so I’m not in any big rush to make 60th-birthday plans just yet. I’m just enjoying this age right now."

What is your favorite vacation spot?
This year, we traveled to Vienna, Paris, Capri, and Sardinia. My wife likes Paris. She likes to go for the fashion shows, and while we’re there, we enjoy staying at the [Four Seasons] George V. But I most enjoy Capri. I like to take the boat out during the day, and then go to a little restaurant called Quattro Passi for lunch. The chef is from southern Italy, and he brings in fresh mozzarella and fresh-caught fish. It’s really delicious. When we are in Capri, we like to stay at the Grand Hotel Quisisana.

What do you collect?
I like to collect works of contemporary art. I recently acquired a painting by Robert Rauschenberg. Some of my favorites in my collection are by Andy Warhol. He did some stuff for me because I knew him very well. I also love photography, especially the work of Bruce Weber. He has a great way of capturing the personalities of his subjects; he’s really amazing. He photographed my family in black and white. We display the photographs prominently in our hallway.

What is your favorite wine?
I love 1947 Cheval Blanc; it’s one of the great wines in a great year. I also like Champagne, vintage Krug. But really the best wine depends on the time of year that you are drinking. When it’s warm outside, I like to drink white wines, like a Sauvignon Blanc. I also like rosé; the Chateau Pradeaux made in Bandol, France, is one of my favorites. In the wintertime, I like my wines a little heavier, a Cabernet Sauvignon, for instance. Pinot Noir is always good, any time of year.

What is an example of you at your best?
[Laughs] You have to ask my wife. . . . Actually, I love to do small wine dinners—no more than 10 people—with really great wine and good food. Any more than a dozen or so people, we have our chef cook for us.

What makes a good host?
I like to keep it simple, not too complicated. On a summer’s day, there’s nothing better than to invite a few close friends over and lay out a spread outside, where guests serve themselves and enjoy the company of good friends. This last weekend, we set out some steak with prosciutto, melon from the farmers’ market, and some raspberry sorbet that I made with some chocolate chips stirred in. We all just sat around outside, drank wine, had some good conversation. It was a good time.

What does luxury mean to you?
Luxury to me is having the best and being able to enjoy it for what it is—and not just for the name that’s attached to it. Sometimes it can be something really simple, like having the best green beans or perfect strawberries or a great Wagyu steak or a sip of perfect wine. That, to me, is luxury. Also, a fine cashmere sweater, something that you know is special just by touching it. A real luxury to me right now is owning your own plane—something I don’t have, but I look forward to. I have some friends who have their own planes, and it’s a real convenience. But for me, right now, as long as I can fly first-class and stay at great hotels, I’m satisfied.

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Photo by Olivier Pascaud
Copyright by Luc Castel
Photo credit Bonjwing Lee