Hollywood's favorite chef, Wolfgang Puck, has been handed the food-and-beverage keys to one of its most storied luxury lodgings: The grand Hotel Bel-Air, which just reopened following an extensive two-year renovation and facelift by the Dorchester Collection, the same company that runs The Beverly Hills Hotel.
The top toque's signature restaurant, Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel-Air, is an indoor-outdoor redoubt off the lobby doling out entrees like braised Wagyu cheeks with smoked onion marmalade and apple horseradish. The space bears rotating artwork from blue-chip L.A. gallery Ace (acrylic pieces by Gary Lang are currently on view) and a clean-lined but not stark modernized decor by A-list New York designer David Rockwell.
The Hollywood Reporter talks to Puck about the Hotel Bel-Air's new menu, fresh look—and why, even with 20 fine-dining restaurants currently in his business basket, he's still not yet sated.
The Hollywood Reporter: You’ve already got Cut at the Beverly Wilshire and WP24 at the Ritz-Carlton downtown. What's your plan for the Hotel Bel-Air?
Wolfgang Puck: Well, it's an iconic property -- not only in Southern California but in the world; everybody knows about it -- so the food is going to really have to fit into the location: Spanish and Italian influences, typical California fresh-from-the-farm and from the market to the table.
THR: Peter Guber famously ordered room service at his adjacent home for decades. Will you continue the tradition?
Puck: Yeah, for sure! I will run up myself so I can get some exercise.
THR: Some longtime Hotel Bel-Air regulars have voiced concern that the redo may have gone a bit too modern.
Puck: You know, people come in -- from Larry King to some other neighbors -- and they love the bar and think the outside [foliage] just has to grow in a little bit more. It really feels comfortable. People always resists change; I love change. I think it was time to modernize it. A club can get too old, from the Friars Club to Chasen’s -- you know, they had clubbiness but no customers [toward the end].
THR: What's your next big focus?
Puck: We are going to redo Spago. The sixteenth of January we are going to be 30 years old. Can you believe that? We’ve survived longer than a lot of restaurants.
THR: Waldo Fernandez, who designed Soho House's West Hollywood outpost, is said to have gotten the gig.
Puck: He did a great job with Trumps [in 1980 on Melrose]. It was the first really chic restaurant, all very modern-looking. I fell in love with it. I'm happy to be working with him.
THR: You seem to constantly be in forward motion, expanding your empire. Why not just take it easy after all of these years?
Puck: I just talked to my sister and she said, "Why don't you retire already?" So I told her, "For me, the biggest excitement -- next to sex -- is probably opening restaurants.”