Monday, August 27, 2012

The Original Celebrity Chefs

As I mentioned in my last posting I spent much time watching The Frugal Gourmet and Julia Child during the 80's. I continued to do so into the 90's and I am thrilled when I can find one of their episodes on PBS today. When you look back to where Julia started on TV she was the first celebrity chef from television. Yes she didn't run a restaurant and would have told you she was a cook and not a chef, but no matter what you call her she was the first. Everyone on Food Network, The Cooking Channel, and others have her to thank.

My first celebrity chef where I actively sought out his cooking was Wolfgang Puck. He didn't start out with a show on TV, that came later, but he revolutionized the restaurant industry where people made his place a destination and a list of the who's who dined. You wanted to be there and one eating this incredible food. For many years Wolfgang's restaurant Spago was the place to be. He held after Oscar parties hosted by agent to the stars Lefty Lazar for many years. If you were invited to that party you knew you were in.

I am by no means on the list of who's who, but at the age of 19 I had to go there. I wanted to experience this restaurant first hand. I made the reservations and dragged my boyfriend at the time to Spago. Poor thing he was so out of his element, but I thrived eating in the same place as all those faces I have seen on the big screen. Just being there made you feel like you were on that who's who list. The night we went it was pretty quiet and I didn't see many familiar faces, but I was there. I believe I had a lobster dish and was presented with a finger bowl to wash my finger tips after the lobster. They way you were served and treated, this was no Black Angus. I was hooked on fine dining.

Two years later in September 1991 I took my friend Leanne (who was visiting from Australia) and my best friend then Jeanette to Spago. I wanted my friend to have a real Hollywood experience. Lucky for her we were able to see Steven Segal and his then wife Kelly Lebrock. The food was magnificent then as it was the first time and it hadn't lost its shine. That was the last time I ventured to Spago and they have since moved from their Sunset location to Beverly Hills.

This wasn't the last of me and Wolfgang by any means. He opened Wolfgang Puck Express Cafe so everyone could enjoy his food without breaking the bank. Thankfully there was one in Ontario, CA not to far from where I lived so we visited frequently.  Wolfgang also opened Chinois in Beverly Hills, this was an Asian fusion restaurant that made the most incredible tuna. My husband and I visited Chinois several times. In 2006 I took our daughter to his 20 21 restaurant at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. He didn't disappoint then either and another foodie was born in my daughter.

I continue to follow Wolfgang and enjoy watching repeats of his shows and to see what he has cooking when he is on HSN. He has come a long way from his days of the Oscar parties at Spago and has been the chef for the Governor's Ball that occurs immediately after the Oscars. While we don't go to Spago, Chinois, and the Express Cafe near us closed many years ago, we still find it a treat to go to his remaining Cafe at Universal City Walk when we are there.  Wolfgang will always have a special place in me as he was my first celebrity chef. You never forget your first.


  1. Nice post Debbie. I look forward to hearing more of your food adventures.

    Check mine out too! I don't update too often, but once-in-a-while I will put something up.

  2. My first celebrity chef was Emeril. I still haven't eaten at one of his restaurants, but watching him on Food Network, even though I HATE seafood, he always made it look and sound so good that I actually wanted to try it.

  3. Thanks Chad. This looks like it's going to be an adventure on its own as I learn how to navigate and simplify things.

  4. Hey Debbie, do you remember the Cajun Cooker? I was a huge Frugal Gourmet fan back in the day, too!!! =) But, nothing beat the Cajun Cooker throwin' in a liddle bid of dat and a liddle bid of dis.

    1. I love Justin Wilson. The way he say Onion was something I will never forget. I can GARONTEE that!