Wolfgang Puck at the Governor's Ball, 2009. Photo: Getty Images.
2010 marks the 16th year that famed Austrian chef Wolfgang Puck will be creating the menu for the Governor's Ball, which takes place immediately after the Academy Awards. The gregarious gastronome spoke to Slashfood to reveal some "Puckish" tips for hosting a successful Oscar viewing party.
What is your best tip?
WP: I think you have to decorate the house a little bit, so it looks like it has something to do about movies. If you can buy some new or old movie posters and put them up, I think it's nice. Have the people who come by get dressed up a little bit, so that way they don't come like slobs like it's another party. Then it's good to serve some sparkling wine or champagne or something, which makes it festive.
What about food?
WP: The best thing is to serve a buffet -- to have some good salads, like a chopped vegetable salad, some asparagus, some cooked artichokes, and then some warm dishes, like braised short ribs, especially if you're on the East Coast, where often the beginning of March is still very cold. People love braised short ribs and the great thing is that you can make them way in advance. You can freeze them or you can keep them in the fridge for a few days beforehand and then you just reheat them slowly and serve with some polenta and Parmesan cheese. People are going to think they are in the best restaurant.
I like to make a gratin of potatoes, which is potatoes, milk, a little garlic, salt and pepper and cheese on top. People love it and it's easy to make. Plus, you can make it early on in the day. For desserts I like to have mainly smaller pieces, like cookies with maybe some ice cream; great chocolate-chip cookies, coconut cookies or lemon cookies or pecan bars. I would also have good red and white wine.
What are your secret tips?
WP: I think it's really important to get a whole overhaul view of the party, what impression you want people to get from your party. It's nice in the evening to have candles because you're going to have the TV blasting anyway, so candles make it a little fancy. Also you don't want to stay in the kitchen during the telecast, so it's good to set up a buffet where you don't have to really tend to it all the time.
Ever served pigs in a blanket at a party?
WP: You know, I never have. I like sausages but more homemade sausages.
So you couldn't bring yourself to serve them.
WP: No, not yet. I was thinking if I could make a special sausage. I thought about it the other day. It would be interesting to find a twist on pigs in a blanket. We would make our own truffle sausage and roll them in a good puff pastry.
Would you ever have a bowl of chips?
WP: You know I don't like all this processed food. I'm really against it. I think we eat too much of it. If you want to do a party, try to serve things you can make at home. You can buy some good bread and serve it with some good cheeses.
How about pizzas -- you're famous for your pizzas.
WP: You know we have a frozen pizza in the stores. I use it at home but I don't serve it just out of the freezer. I finish it off with some fresh basil, some fresh Parmesan and a little drizzle of olive oil; that way it feels like a homemade pizza.
When you were growing up, what was your favorite dish that you mom made?
WP: I love sweets the most. For dinner we had crepes with apricot jam and powdered sugar on top. I would have them with a glass of milk. That was a perfect dinner for me.
I love Austrian desserts.
WP: Austria is very famous for its warm pastries and afternoon cakes.