Wolfgang Puck Critiques Oscar Menus of Past Years: "You'd Never Now Serve Paté and Then Roast Filet"

Misha Gravenor
Puck’s Governors Ball menu is just a starting point: “I have eight chefs on hand just doing special requests.”

Hollywood's top chef annotates historic awards meals from the 1920s (celery!) to his own that he's created for 22 years running.

This story first appeared in the March 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Just as in film, where silent movies and black-and-white gave way to color and special effects, there has been an evolution in food," says Wolfgang Puck. "Cooking used to be a profession where you worked for hire, doing as you were told. Today, the best chefs are sought out for their specific voice and point of view — much like top directors." As the industry's most beloved culinary auteur prepares to cater his 22nd Academy Awards Governors Ball, where he'll serve some 1,500 guests, he surveyed for THR nearly a century of Oscar night menus.

1929


Courtesy of A.M.P.A.S.

How exciting is this? "Celery." Today they would look at you and go, "What the heck?!"

Half-broiled chicken on toast! That's old-style hotel cooking. You can tell this menu is from before World War II: cooking as it was done when nice hotels still followed Escoffier.

1972

Courtesy of A.M.P.A.S.

At that time, everyone ate differently. We didn't know what was good for us. You'd never now serve paté and then roast filet and then pastries and then chocolates to a room — without options.

1992

Courtesy of A.M.P.A.S.

It's amazing, the whole menu is Southwestern! I wonder who catered that year. That style was still new. All of a sudden in this country, from the '80s on, America discovered it didn't have to be French or Italian or Chinese. Its food could come from within, this regional American cooking, from the Southwest to Creole to what I came to be interested in, California cuisine.

2003

Courtesy of A.M.P.A.S.

Some of the things I still do today because they're so popular, like the smoked salmon pizza. At that time, we still did a seated dinner for the Governors Ball. Every year the party planners say they want something "different." I say, "I cook what Barbra Streisand and John Travolta and Robert De Niro like," because I know them from my restaurants.

2016

Courtesy of A.M.P.A.S.

It used to be vegetarians we had to keep in mind, then it became vegans. Now it's gluten and nuts and dairy and all the rest. This is the first year it's annotated, but people who attend don't look at the menu. I have eight chefs on hand just doing special requests that night. We do whatever people want. It's everything from healthy innovation to comfort food — from a taro root taco with wild mushrooms to macaroni and cheese.

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