Have you always wanted to ask your favorite chef what they love to eat when they’re at home? Or perhaps what they think the next big food or dining trend will be? Look no further than this exclusive series of chef interviews by JustLuxe. So read on, as we bring you these answers and more — direct from the culinary masters themselves. Some of the most famous names in the industry, including legendary Michelin-starred chefs, have divulged exciting insider information and personal stories of their journey to the top just for our readers.
Restaurant: Well over 20, including WP24, CUT, Spago and Chinois Location: Worldwide Type of Cuisine: Contemporary American Accolades: Two time James Beard Award Winner, 2008 Chef of the Year, Culinary Institute of America
JustLuxe: At what point in your life did you decide to become a chef? What influenced you to do so?
Wolfgang: I started as a chef at the age of 14 and even before that, I worked with my mother who was a professional chef at a resort hotel in Austria. So I think the early love for good food started around that time. I never thought that at 14 I would be a chef – I really wanted to be a pastry chef because sweets were my favorite part of the meal. The more I got into cooking the more passionate I became and by 17 I had moved to France to work in a restaurant called Baumanière with the chef owner, Raymond Thuilier. He became my mentor not only because he was a great chef with deep passion for the best ingredients, but he was also great with the customers, knew about hospitality, and he was also a sharp businessman.
JustLuxe: If you could give a word of advice to an aspiring chef, what would you say?
Wolfgang: A good chef has to be a manager, a businessman and a great cook. To marry all three together is sometimes difficult.
JustLuxe: Where do you get inspiration for the design of your dishes and plating?
Wolfgang: The farmer's market.
JustLuxe: Which season do you look forward to the most for its ingredients?
Wolfgang: Spring is an exciting season, especially at the farmer’s market. After a long winter of root vegetables, it’s nice to see fresh spring peas, asparagus, artichokes, grapefruits, strawberries and more.
JustLuxe: What places or cities in the world have influenced your cooking the most?
Wolfgang: To me, foods from Japan and China and India have always inspired me. So when I came to Los Angeles in 1975, it was the perfect place for me because I could explore Little Tokyo and Chinatown as well as many other exciting cultural parts of our city which really helped define my cooking style.
JustLuxe: In your opinion, what innovation has recently influenced the restaurant industry in a significant way?
Wolfgang: The availability of products from fresh herbs to simple things like arugula and mesclun, etc. and the beginning of cooking as a sought-after profession for young Americans. I remember when I started at Ma Maison in the 1970s, you could not get goat cheese, sundried tomatoes, baby lamb, wonderful quails, and not to mention vegetables from the Chino farm.
JustLuxe: What would you say is the current climate of business in the restaurant industry?
Wolfgang: I think as the economy gets better, we’ll see more fine dining. 2010 and 2011 saw understated and neighborhood restaurants popping up everywhere. To push dining forward, you need fine dining types of restaurants to keep moving ahead with cuisine.
JustLuxe: What is your favorite dish to prepare at home as opposed to the plate you enjoy preparing in the kitchen?
Wolfgang: Pizza with white truffles, fresh vegetables from the Sunday farmer’s market and roasted or grilled free-range chicken
JustLuxe: Besides gastronomy, what other passions do you have?
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