Credited to be the first celebrity chef, Disney+ Hotstar recently released a documentary on Wolfgang Puck. He is an Austrian-American chef, who first rose to fame after the opening of his Los Angeles based restaurant “Spago”.
When you watch a documentary about a celebrity, you expect it to be a glance into the inner workings of said person’s mind. Wolfgang is anything but that. In fact, the whole film seems like a 78 minute long commercial about why Wolfgang Puck is the best. It feels like a marketing strategy more than anything else. Throughout its run time, I cannot say that I know much about who Wolfgang Puck is. I have no supplemental information that I would not already find on a Wikipedia page already.
Although the director, David Gelb, tries to vary the tone here and there, there is a marked lack of tension throughout the film. Gelb tries to introduce conflict by bringing in competitors and well-known nemeses of the chef in question. However, their opinions and accounts of who Wolfgang is, seem rather brushed aside. They follow these by tooth-achingly sweet anecdotes to cover up every negative instance that has been insinuated. It seems like a hasty carpet draped over a juice stain, giving a rather biased air to the documentary.
Wolfgang throws light on how Puck was a less than ideal father, more absent than not. Although, rather than sounding like a flaw, it has the classic “Oh, my only flaw is that I work too hard” taste to it, that doesn’t leave the best taste in your mouth. This should be a huge red flag, considering that the film is closely linked with food. No, wait we’re just kidding.
It has your classic rise to fame, “from rags to riches” success story. Puck belonged to a less than well-to-do family from Austria. His parents always reiterated that cooking is not a manly hobby, let alone an occupation. Him losing his first job cascades into Wolfgang finally realizing who he is, and developing a more nuanced outlook on life.
One of the best parts about Wolfgang was Patrick Terrail, the owner of Ma Maison. Ma Maison, meaning “My Home” in French, is an upper-end Boston-based restaurant and was Puck’s first high-end kitchen job. Ultimately, Puck left and started his own restaurant “Spago”. This whole phase in his life where Puck works at Ma Maison is narrated with the underlying tone of him being wronged, or not credited enough. Terrail serves as a huge reality check for the audience, widely helping to put things in perspective.
No doubt, Wolfgang Puck quickly became an influential name and continues to be so. He was the first to give definition to the term “celebrity chef” and elevated himself from a blue-collar job to an internationally recognised chef and restauranteur.
Final Verdict: Wolfgang Review
Wolfgang was a pioneer in his field, with concepts of fusion food and a will to be out of the box. However, the same cannot be said for his documentary. It doesn’t appeal to your senses and feels like an infomercial rather than a comprehensive bio-pic. I would go as far as to say that one of the best aspects of Wolfgang was the close-up shots of the dish after dish. It is ironic how a movie largely about food has no real substance behind it. Not worth a watch, unless you’re a huge fan and even then, you’ll probably know most of it already. Stream it here, on Disney+ Hotstar.