The peaceful, elegant setting at Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air makes it one of the most beloved places to dine in Los Angeles.
How does chef Wolfgang Puck stay on top after all these years? The answer is simple: great food, warm and welcoming service, and the ability to embrace—and encourage—change.
Wolfgang Puck is always on the move. When we spoke, he and his team had catered the Academy Awards the night before—a tradition held for over 25 years. In the last few months he’s been to the Middle East, Switzerland, Maui, London and even Bentonville, Ark., a city that surprised him with its abundant culture and innovation. In addition to loving the Crystal Bridges Museum, his interest was piqued by, of all things, a coffee shop. “It was probably the most modernistic coffee lab I’ve ever seen. You would think it would be in TriBeCa or West Hollywood, not Bentonville,” he says. “I can’t stop thinking about it. I though it would be good to have something like it in airports.” And with that, Puck—who has a whole arm of his business focused on airports—is undoubtedly thinking about how to innovate.
A private booth at Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air looks out toward lush greenery
He may be best known for his classic spots like Spago—which has been in L.A. for decades—and the associated dishes, like the beloved smoked salmon pizza he can never take off the menu. But while he holds on to what works, Puck is always looking ahead. Like many restaurants, he and his team had to majorly pivot during the pandemic, offering takeout and pickup, and even creating an outdoor dining pavilion at Spago. “It’s lucky that they closed down the street and made this beautiful wall at the end of it,” he says. “I think it should stay that way.”
Ospero’s chopped Chino Farm vegetable salad with lobster
As well, he’s always considering what customers are looking for when it comes to fine dining. “Different age groups look at different things,” he says. “When I talk to my son Byron, he goes out differently than me. He goes to one place for cocktails, then moves on to another place,” he continues. “There’s an intimidation factor when it comes to having white tablecloths. Even myself, I go to that type of restaurant, where you have to make a reservation a month in advance, maybe twice a year.”
Spago’s famous smoked salmon pizza, also available at Ospero.
So what do diners want today? “It’s really about the hospitality,” Puck explains. “Even as a chef, it’s the hospitality that makes the experience either stuffy or fun. If you have a fun waiter, whatever is serious on the plate isn’t intimidating.” Curiosity and passion are also key. “If you’re curious and can not stay fixed and always ask ‘How can we change?’ and ‘How can we do it better?’ you’ll be OK,” says Puck, who recently opened Ospero and Merois at the new Pendry West Hollywood and is working on opening a restaurant in Budapest. “My wife always asks when I’m going to slow down,” he says. “I say, ‘Slow down from what?’ I always want to do more. It’s a constant evolution.” wolfgangpuck.com