Photo by Pop Culture Passionistas
Even in today’s crowded culinary landscape, there are few icons that compare to Wolfgang Puck. Not only is he one of the most recognizable chefs on the planet but he is also the hardest working man in the food biz. He owns almost 30 restaurants around the world, caters star-studded events like last weekend’s Academy Awards and has a line of cookbooks and consumer products that include induction ovens, pots and pans and pressure cookers.
Not one to rest on his laurels, the 66-year-old chef has added a new venture to his epicurean empire — an online cooking school. It’s yet another forward thinking endeavor for a creative soul who has always been ahead of the culinary curve. “I started to write cookbooks 35 years ago. I was very excited about it,” he recounted. “At that time, very few chefs wrote cookbooks. There was Paul Prudhomme, Alice Waters and me. There were three chefs in America who wrote cookbooks.”
Over the years he has taught cooking classes in person and has been known to appear as a guest on a reality TV show or two. But Puck wanted to reach a broader audience. “I thought, ‘There must be a better way.’ Because I see my kids, always when they want something, they go to the tablet or they go and Google it or they ask Siri.” And with that, the Wolfgang Puck Cooking School was born.
His mission is simple — present each recipe as a straightforward video with supporting text and photos. “We should really teach people to cook online,” Puck envisioned. “So, then they can actually see how it’s done. We learn visually so much better than just by reading. And, then you can see actually what happens from A to Z.”
After a lengthy development process, Puck went into the kitchen last October and filmed 150 recipes in three weeks. Wolfgang walks his students through every step of the recipe himself. No fillers. No additives. Pure Puck. “There were no other people doing [the videos],” he explained. “It’s really me showing you how to poach an egg or how to peel an asparagus or how to peel a tomato or how to make a fish Veracruz style or how to make a broccoli cheddar soup.”
You’d think with all he has on his plate, the videos would be short and to the point like most “TV magic” cooking moments on series or morning show segments. But students aren’t going to see an uncooked veal shank miraculously turn into ossobuco in mere minutes on this website. Instead, Puck’s video recipes take their time to unfold, as he offers anecdotes about his mother and grandmother who taught him to cook, helpful hits and invaluable lessons on technique.
According to Puck, “We thought at the beginning we should have recipes just three minutes long, maybe four minutes long. Then we found out that there’s actually so much valuable information that we found out that we couldn’t keep anything in the time frame. So, we have now some recipes like my grandmother’s ravioli is 16-minutes.”
Of course, some people might think this all sounds a bit intimidating. How could someone who’s clueless in the kitchen actually recreate one of Puck’s world-renowned recipes? Where would they go to get all the fancy ingredients and kitchen tools to pull it off? Well, Wolfgang thought about all that while creating the courses. As he noted, “I want people to cook at home but be able to do recipes and be able to get ingredients in their local supermarket.”
It’s just one of the ways that Wolfgang is making the online classes accessible to every home cook — regardless of their skill set. You don’t need to blow your retirement savings on truffles or sous vide equipment to execute the recipes. The master even pulls out an occasional off the shelf ingredient like barbecue sauce to enhance a recipe, speed up the execution time and remind the viewers that there’s no reason to be intimidated.
And if any step does seem too complex to a newbie, it’s easy for them to jump back and forth to chapters within a recipe to watch how a technique is executed over again or review the plating to make sure the presentation is sheer perfection. All the while, Puck explains why you’re doing what you’re doing so that you're constantly building your knowledge base.
And the icing on the cake is that it costs just $9.99 a month or $99 a year. That’s just a bit more than the average neighborhood cooking class with some unknown chef, who’ll send you home with a print out of three or four decent recipes. It really is a bargain to get a front row, master class that you can access whenever you are in the mood to whip up a masterpiece.
To learn more about the Wolfgang Puck Cooking School visit the official website.