When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, award-winning celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck likes to stick with tradition.
“I tried many times to do different things at home,” the two-Michelin starred chef told Yahoo Finance Live. “I remember one time, I did Peking duck, and people looked at me and said, why Peking duck? This is Thanksgiving. We want a turkey, or at least a ham.”
Puck advises “not to overcook” your turkey, but for him the real stars of the Thanksgiving feast are the side dishes.
“Because I'm from Austria, I love [turkey] with braised red cabbage. I make a chestnut puree with it. I make a sweet potato gratin with apples.”
He also thinks the house should smell like the holidays. “You know, we're using all the spices, from cinnamon, to ginger, to nutmeg. So for me, the most important part is the smell. You feel like – ah, I know this is the holidays.”
After scaling back or canceling the holiday altogether last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, a record 47% of Americans plan to host Thanksgiving dinner this year. Still, others are opting to eat out on the biggest food holiday of the year.
“I think people want to go out because it's very difficult to get a good turkey, and there's a shortage of turkeys. So people get nervous and say, maybe we should just make a reservation in a restaurant,” he said. “Preparing this feast for Thanksgiving is a lot of work. Who wants to clean up the kitchen?”
Several of Puck’s fine-dining restaurants in the U.S. have a wait list for Thanksgiving day including his New York steakhouse CUT and his signature restaurant at the Bel-Air Hotel in Los Angeles, where the wait list is 200 deep.
Still, not even Wolfgang Puck is immune to labor shortages plaguing the restaurant industry.
“It has gotten much better for the front of their house— for the waiters, busboys, bartenders, but it's still difficult in the kitchen,” he said, “because the salaries are not really equal. You have a waiter who can make six figures, and you have a line cook who stands behind the hot stove, and he makes, maybe two-thirds of that or less. I really believe sooner or later, we have to do something— have service inclusive, or share the tips.
Catering for celebs
Puck has had a busy fall. He curated the cocktail menu for Adele’s album launch party with drinks named “Aperolgetically Adele Spritz” and “‘I Drink Wine’ Spritzer” – nods to tracks off her new album, “30.” The Grammy-Award winning singer even shared a photo of the menu on her instagram account.
Puck also catered Paris Hilton’s wedding this month to venture capitalist Carter Reum at her family’s Bel-Air estate.
“Paris Hilton loves caviar, so we had a whole caviar station out there,” he said. The 280 guests including Kim Kardashian, Demi Lovato and Emma Roberts also dined on jam lettuce, tortellini with truffles and a duo of fish and meat for the main course.
“We had all these amazing appetizers, like tuna tartare in the miso cones… potstickers… great spring rolls,” he explained.
Thanks to food inflation, Puck said it cost him about 20% more to cater Hilton’s big day, but he was careful not to pass the extra cost onto the new bride and groom.
“I know Kathy and Ricky Hilton, and Paris also, since she was maybe two years old, so it’s like part of our family.”
Alexis Christoforous is an anchor and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @AlexisTVNews.