On this day in 1949, Wolfgang Puck, the celebrity chef and official caterer for the Academy Awards Governors Ball, is born in Austria.
Puck, whose mother was a hotel chef, began his culinary training as a teenager and worked in top restaurants in France before moving to the United States at age 24 in 1973. After a stint at a restaurant in Indiana, Puck relocated to Los Angeles in the mid-1970s and became chef and co-owner of the popular Ma Maison. In 1981, he published his first cookbook, Modern French Cooking for the American Kitchen, and the following year opened his restaurant Spago, on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. Spago became famous for its gourmet pizza (which featured such toppings as caviar and smoked salmon) and its celebrity clientele. Puck went on to open Spago restaurants in locations such as Chicago, Tokyo, Las Vegas and Beverly Hills. His empire grew to include non-Spago restaurants, as well as a line of frozen foods, soups, cooking products and cookbooks.
A winner of the prestigious James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef of the Year, Puck has also been a frequent presence on TV, demonstrating cooking techniques on talk shows like Good Morning, America and making cameo appearances on programs such as Las Vegas.