Kitchen Crashers: Behind the Scenes at Wolfgang Puck’s $750 Brunch

Written with Marga Mayhew

After the cocktail portion of Wolfgang Puck’s brunch, and some more interesting hors d’ouvres, the press started to scatter. We looked over the menu for the lavish sit-down brunch, drooling over the Penne with Lobster, Spider Crab and Shrimp, Wagyu Sirloin and Poached Pink Lady Apples. Understandably, at $750 a plate, there wasn’t room for press in the dining room. But we aren’t the type to just wander off. After standing outside the kitchen like a Broadway stage door, we just smoothly followed a waiter through the swinging door. We went all “A Team” on the event. We discovered that if you find an out-of-the-way corner, people are too busy to pay any attention to you.

We had been wondering if the chefs would just develop a menu and leave the cooking to someone else. The famous chefs were all deep in the trenches, sleeves rolled up. Wolfgang Puck and were working on the Twice-baked Upside-down Cheese Souffle in perfect harmony with Chef Francois Payard. Puck would sometimes glance my way, where Nobu Matsuhisa also stood, gesturing for Puck to shave more truffle onto the dishes.

The kitchen was being orchestrated like a symphony at one of John Williams concerts. The “music” from the kitchen was exhilarating for the eyes and ears if you love cooking. Waiters repeating their table and seat numbers as they rushed out the kitchen, plates being detailed with sauces and garnishes, renowned chefs taking orders from Wolfgang. It was amazing to see it all harmoniously come together. You saw the respect for Wolfgang ring through the kitchen as everyone aimed to please. It was efficient, speedy delicious work!

When service was finished, there were a few dishes left on the counter, some perfectly plated for Wolfgang’s personal tweeter to photograph and tweet (yes, he has a personal tweeter), along with the cheese rejects that weren’t pretty enough to serve. Finally, we thought, “Oh to hell with it” and grabbed a plate. The souffle was light and delicate, with the truffles adding a subtle touch.

Then a camera crew and a few more photographers invaded the kitchen, so it was on. We walked right up, careful not to disturb the chefs, and snapped away like paparazzi.

As service was ending, Wolfang reached over and stuck his fingers right in the pan of pasta! As Wolfgang sneaked a taste, I leaned into Chef Matsuhisa, and whispered, “Are we all allowed to do that?” He relied, “No, you get a plate.” He walked over to the extras and brought me a plate of the coveted pasta. I impulsively kissed him on the cheek and squaled, “Oh, I could marry you right now, Nobu!”

The other side of the kitchen was just plating the dessert. Poached Pink Lady Apples. We wanted them apples.. Like Tantalus, we could only reach in frustration. No plates were fair game until service had ended, and our kitchen adventures were drawing to a close. In the end, we had a  lot more fun than if we had been seated, and we were glad to let those seats go to philanthropists who could help the charity. We were privileged to eat some of the excess that was being prepared for the guests in the auction. Let’s just say this event had earned its’ price tag.

Wolfgang did an amazing job raising awareness and money for the many that benefit from Meals on Wheels.  When I spoke with the Meals on Wheels team, it was interesting to see all the love and compassion they have for this amazing organization. They have a menu that is even health specific. If you got diabetes or high cholesterol they have you covered.  Talk about true care in nutrition and health for an individual. This is truly a life saving organization that not only touches tummies but also touches lives.

Elise Thompson

About Elise Thompson

Born and raised in the great city of Los Angeles, this food, culture and music-loving punk rock angeleno wants to turn you on to all that is funky, delicious and weird in the city. While Elise holds down the fort, her adventurous alter ego Kiki Maraschino is known to roam the country in search of catfish.
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