We live in a world of celebrity chefs. A world in which there are entire television channels and a subgenre of documentary dedicated to chefs and food. There were chefs on TV before all this began, but one chef incited the world of food celebrity: Wolfgang Puck.
If you’re a fan of food television, there isn’t a name more synonymous with it than Puck. If you’re going to make a documentary about the first real celebrity chef, then you definitely want the team who made Jiro Dreams of Sushi and Chef’s Table to make it.
As you might imagine, Wolfgang is a gorgeously shot feature. Anyone who has watched any of the previous work by director David Gelb knows that this man and his team know how to shoot food; how to make it look its most mouthwatering and how to make the act of cooking to make it look the most simultaneously majestic and personal action anyone can take.
So then, how is the story itself? Wolfgang Puck has had an interesting life, and it is a story worth telling.
I don’t think I can really spoil a story that is so public already, but the film is definitely one that celebrates Puck’s life without digging too deeply into any of it. In particular, while the film does let us know that his ex-wife Barbara Lazaroff was instrumental in the early days of his career and that he wasn’t home for his children very much when they were young, it doesn’t dive too deeply into that time period at all. Toward the end of the film, Puck is cooking alongside one of his sons, but his other son is notably absent from the film. So, for that matter, is his first wife.
Wolfgang is a well shot and well-made film, and an interesting one, but maybe a slightly… slight one. One that engages in some light hagiography, and as long as you are aware that that is the case, you can focus on the fact that Puck does indeed have a magnetic personality and a singular talent for cooking, and enjoy watching both of those things on the screen.
Wolfgang played as part of the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival and will premiere on Disney+ on June 25th.
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