Puck joins MenuMasters Hall of Fame

NEW YORK Wolfgang Puck, one of the world’s most celebrated chefs and restaurateurs, has been named by Nation’s Restaurant News the 2009 inductee into the MenuMasters Hall of Fame.

Puck, who has created a vast international culinary empire since the early 1980s, will be honored on May 16 during the MenuMasters Awards ceremony at the Drake Hotel in Chicago. MenuMasters winners in a range of other special culinary categories will also be recognized at the ceremony.

Sponsored by Ventura Foods LLC, the MenuMasters Awards honor companies and individuals for outstanding contributions to foodservice research and development and menu design.

"No one exemplifies the ideals of the MenuMasters Awards program better than Wolfgang Puck whose name is synonymous with innovative cooking that redefined the dining scene in America and around the world," said Tom Larranaga, publisher of NRN, which is based in New York. "We look forward to honoring this foodservice legend at MenuMasters."

B. Kelly Brintle, senior vice president of industry relations for Ventura Foods, added: "It will be a thrill to add the name Wolfgang Puck to our Hall of Fame lineup of culinary legends. He is a remarkable individual whose restaurant creativity and vision along with his passion for the culinary arts provides immense enjoyment to consumers worldwide."

Puck began cooking at his mother's side as a child. She was a chef in the Austrian town where he was born, and with her encouragement, he began his formal training at age 14. As a young chef he worked in some of France's greatest restaurants. At 24, he came to America, where his first job was at the restaurant La Tour in Indianapolis. In 1975, he moved to Los Angeles and quickly gained the attention of the Hollywood elite as chef and eventually part owner of Ma Maison in West Hollywood.

From Ma Maison, the rising culinary star went on to create his first flagship restaurant, Spago, originally located in West Hollywood on the Sunset Strip. From its opening day in 1982, Spago was an instant success. Early signature dishes, such as haute-cuisine pizzas topped with smoked salmon and caviar, and Sonoma baby lamb with braised greens and rosemary, put Puck and Spago on the gourmet map.

Today, Puck's organization, which consists of Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, Wolfgang Puck Catering and Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, Inc., operates his fine-dining restaurants, premium catering services, fast-casual restaurants, cookbooks and licensed products.

Wolfgang Puck Worldwide includes franchises of the casual Wolfgang Puck Bistro and fast casual Wolfgang Puck Express restaurants and Wolfgang Puck Cafe as well as branded packaged foods and beverages, book publishing and other licensing and merchandising projects.

Among his numerous awards, Puck was named NRN's Fine Dining Legend in 2007. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Gelila, and has four sons, Cameron, Byron, Oliver and Alexander.

As this year's Hall of Fame inductee, Puck joins a prestigious group of MenuMasters Hall of Fame members, including Roger Berkowitz, Bert Cutino, Emeril Lagasse, the late Warren Leruth, Richard Melman, David Overton, Jacques Pepin, Paul Prudhomme, the late colonel Harland Sanders, Jasper White and Martin Yan.

The MenuMasters Hall of Fame inductee is selected by the editors of Nation's Restaurant News.