Things have gone well for Wolfgang Puck since landing his first job on American soil aged 24. Four decades later, and the Austrian-born chef is the most famous in the US, celebrating his 22nd year as the mastermind behind the Governors Ball dinner for Hollywood's greatest stars, held on the night of the Oscars.
With an empire boasting 60 restaurants across the world, a catering business and a line of drinks, books and even kitchen appliances, as well as numerous awards to his name, Wolfgang certainly knows what he's doing.
Wolfgang Puck will be cooking for the stars once again
And that's what he told the Academy when they asked him to cook on Oscars night all those years ago. "I went to see them and said, 'I don't tell you guys how to make your movies and you don't interfere with my cooking,'" he recalls, adding: "We all focus on what we do best, which makes the evening a huge success."
The Academy weren't the only ones to have faith in the chef – the stars themselves were already big fans of his most famous restaurant, Spago in West Hollywood, as well as Chinois in Santa Monica. "I know most of the celebrities that come to our restaurants so when they found out that we were doing a dinner after the ceremony, they all stayed because they were sure they were going to have good food and good service," says Wolfgang.
5,000 chocolate Oscars have been created for guests
Such is his rapport with his guests, that every now and then he whips up a creation with someone special in mind. The year Ang Lee was up for an Oscar for Best Director for Life of Pi, the chef asked Taiwanese-born Ang if he would like some home cooking. When Ang replied yes, Wolfgang created a custom dish of steamed fish with ginger, scallions, garlic, chilli and a little soy sauce.
As for this year, he quips: "I haven't decided yet if I'm going to serve a big bear for Leonardo DiCaprio!", referencing the powerfully-staged bear attack from brutal revenge thriller The Revenant, the gruelling role for which Leonardo is a big contender for the Best Actor gong.
Guests will enjoy doughnuts flamed with raspberry brandy and served with raspberry sauce
As chance would have it, Leonardo, who ate raw bison liver on the set of his latest film, would no doubt taste any dish that Wolfgang prepared. "Leonardo...," the chef confides, "comes to Spago and says he wants to try 12 dishes... so he can taste and learn."
Jokes aside, this year's star feast features dozens of both new and classic tapas-style dishes – Wolfgang, 66, brought the same casual LA vibe from his restaurants to the Governors Ball a few years ago, so that what was once a formal sit-down dinner has evolved into a social affair that allows the guests to nibble and mingle.
On-trend hors d'oeuvres and small dishes such as avocado toast with radish and finger lime and Wagyu shortrib with cauliflower purée and golden raisins will be served alongside old favourites including, of course, his signature smoked salmon Oscars. An ice bar will serve sushi and shellfish, while an entire chocolate buffet, with delights including caramel Oscar lollipops and vegan coconut cupcakes, will provide the perfect sweet finish.
Wolfgang Puck has created the Oscars menu for the 22nd consecutive year
"We are going to top last year with traditional dishes that Adele and John Travolta love, like the macaroni cheese with truffles and chicken pot pie, and then new additions like Alaskan king crab Chinese-style, lobster and vegetarian dishes like white grape almond gazpacho," reveals Wolfgang.
"I have chefs come from all over the world to help me," he says, adding that his team strive to create a menu that reflects new food trends as well as "the things I love" for their 1,600 guests.
Once all the hard work is over, how does Wolfgang wind down? "I go into the dining room and congratulate some of the winners and pour some extra champagne... I have a glass of champagne and go home," he says, making it all sound like a piece of cake.