Q& A | Wolfgang Puck

The Chef Carves Up Foie Gras, Food TV

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Last week, the Source by Wolfgang Puck (575 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 202-637-6100) debuted next to the soon-to-open Newseum. It's really two restaurants, with Asian-inspired fine dining upstairs and more casual pizzas and small plates in the ground-floor lounge.

Days after opening a new Wolfgang Puck Grille in Detroit, Puck arrived in Washington to christen his new concept. He spoke with staff writer Jane Black about the state of food TV and why he's sick of foie gras. Edited excerpts follow:

In March, you announced that you would serve only all-natural products and meat from humanely treated animals. You also banned foie gras. Has anyone complained?

I think everybody out there wants to get better food when they go to a restaurant. Not just well-prepared meals: better quality. They also want to know where it's coming from, who raises or farms it.

At Spago in Beverly Hills, we used to have foie gras four ways. It was beautiful. Two hot and two cold presentations. And some people came up and said, "Oh, my god. We came in especially for it." And then we give them something different, and they're perfectly happy.

Do you still eat foie gras?

I haven't eaten it in six or eight months. And you know what? I didn't want it anymore anyway. Everywhere I go, people know me and I know them, and the chef says, I make you a menu. And everyone has foie gras. And once I eat the foie gras I can't eat any more; it's so rich. So I actually told people I'm allergic to foie gras, because I'd rather have fish or pasta and not these rich things.

You're one of America's top celebrity chefs and yet you don't have your own current cooking show anymore. Why?

Well, I'm working on an animated show for children. I will be animated; the whole kitchen will be animated. We are working with Disney on it for next fall, hopefully. It's going to be a little how to cook, but it will teach what is good, what is not good, a little about the geography [of food] and where it comes from. . . . I'm more into that than just going on the Food Network. They want me to do this "Iron Chef" thing. But I don't gain that much from it. I'd rather do something more important in the long run.

So what do you think of food TV?

It's going in a way now where it's more like housewife cooking than professional cooking. When I did it four or five years ago, they said, "We don't want celebrities; we just want to teach people to be in the kitchen and show them how to cook." . . . [These days, the hosts] get a push-up bra and show a little cleavage and wear a tight sweater, and they think it's sexy housewife cooking.

What should we order off the Source menu?

You should get things you can't make at home. When you go to a restaurant, it's silly to go and eat a steak. You can get steaks at a market, and if you buy prime, there's a good chance if you grill it at home it will be tasty.

I love our duck -- with figs and huckleberries and a little salad. The preparation is Chinese. We blow them up in the compressor and separate the skin from the meat and then blanch and air-dry them, just like the Chinese do.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company