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Wolfgang Puck on Battling Shyness, ‘Bogus’ Celebrity Chefs

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PuckPhoto: Getty Images

After sparking the cult of the celebrity chef, appearing on dozens of TV shows, and displaying general ubiquity in the frozen-foods section (not to mention that forthcoming lifetime achievement award), Wolfgang Puck admits to HuffPo that he was once a very shy guy who couldn't even look into the camera or talk with his guests. Asked about the biggest obstacle the chef had to overcome in his career, Puck responds, "My shyness, without a doubt ... I know when my father would yell criticism at me from the sidelines of the soccer field I wanted to just disappear." He continues, "In my old school pictures I'm never looking into the camera. Even when I was 27 I was the shyest guy."

Puck claims his initial reluctance to speak to customers held him back and gave him "the reputation for being snobby." He says he only felt at ease with customers he already knew, who just so happened to be very famous folks like Orson Welles, Billy Wilder, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Puck's own tennis partner, Gene Kelly.

Detailing his attitude adjustment, Puck recounts, "Here I was in the hospitality business and people perceived me as being inhospitable. I got the message fast. Now I make it a point every night to go to every table and greet them."

It's hard to believe that a man who was once afraid to be seen or speak with people spawned today's raucous celebrity-chef orgy of tantrum-throwing, inked-up, overly opinionated toques. Puck, for his part, calls the celebrity-chef trend "bogus" and questions why "these young chefs all say they want their own restaurant and their own TV show." He points out that "very few" wanna-be Wolfgangs "say 'I want to have the best restaurant in town.'"

Puck Goes Back to His (Ginger) Roots [HuffPo]

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