What would you cook for Clooney?
Guess who’s coming to dinner? Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Brad Pitt and George Clooney… without even mentioning the rest of Hollywood’s royalty, those names would be enough to send many a chef, amateur or professional, in to a meltdown.
But it will be the 18th year Austrian-American culinary darling Wolfgang Puck has catered for such film luminaries at the annual post-Academy Awards dinner, the Governor’s Ball.
Wolfgang Puck with the dishes that will be served after this year's Oscars ceremony.
If I was cooking for Clooney et al, I would stick to my tried and true formal dinner menu favourites which hark back to my Pacific fusion cuisine roots. Scallops on a cauliflower purée, NZ lamb and potato roti, pavlova with a berry coulis… things I know I can cook and could ramp up a notch for celebrity guests with some careful food styling and haute cuisine inspiration. Oh, the pressure!
But Wolfgang Puck has done formal sit-down dinners for the previous 17 Governor’s Ball meals, and says this year, “we really wanted just to have fun”.
“Normally it’s very uptight, a black-tie dinner, the biggest night of the year in Hollywood, and the only thing missing is the British royals,” he says.
So what’s he cooking? Like me, he too is going for a “greatest hits” menu – but from a more informal realm of cooking - comfy classics including pizza, macaroni and cheese, spring rolls and sushi. At this year’s ball, the dining style is going to be much more relaxed, with guests able to eat wherever they choose to stand or sit, or “hang out”.
They are foods you or I could make at home for our friends and family while watching the awards. And as Wolfgang has helpfully placed some of the recipes online – you really can. (Without the 350-strong team of culinary staff.) But would you serve chicken pot pie to Brad Pitt?
“It’s going to be delicious, instead of one big plate of meat or fish, you can eat three or four small ones, and you will be pretty full,” he says. “I think people at home, they can do all these recipes, like the chicken pot pie, which can be made in advance. Things like that are easier to do, precook them, or make pizzas,” Wolfgang recommends.
Grindhouse: the Kobe beef burgers that will be served to the stars.
With more than 50 dishes, the sheer amount of ingredients that go into a menu of this magnitude is mind-boggling – including 11lb (5kg) of American caviar, 1450lbs (657kg) of Maine lobster, 50 whole yellowtail snapper, 10lbs (4.5kg) of black winter truffles, 5000 eggs, 25lbs (11kg) of edible gold dust and 5000 mini chocolate Oscars.
“We use all seasonal ingredients, and we use organic vegetables and fruits, we bought some fantastic berries at the farmer’s market. We’ll have lobster from the east coast and beef from Idaho, Alaskan salmon. And black truffles imported from France. I want people to be awake when they eat, to enjoy strong flavours, like the Chinois lamb with cilantro mint vinaigrette.”
These delicacies will be among the ingredients used to create dishes like smoked salmon on flatbread with caviar and crème fraîche, lobster tacos and the chicken pot pie. But don’t worry Brad, the pie will be Oscar-worthy, as it is topped with shaved black truffles. Although I am not sure whether I would go as far as Wolfgang and wrap your baked potato in gold leaf.
But I could be tempted to try making my own version of the mini Kobe cheeseburger with remoulade and aged cheddar, as a little burger goes a long way at a late-night party in my book.
As I'm motivated by a very sweet tooth, the dessert menu sounds worth attempting at home– especially the raspberry rose éclairs, 'red hot' macaroons and these cute brown sugar lemon meringue cones. Wolfgang says the dessert pièce de resistance, is a “3D chocolate Oscar” Austrian Black Forest torte, served with gold 3D glasses.
You might think that it would take many months to prepare for an event like this. But in fact it’s a relatively short lead-in time for Wolfgang Puck’s team. He says: “We start planning about six weeks in advance. Then, we prepared a tasting for the Ball committee at the end of January. We do a little practice - it is one thing to cook it, another thing to cook it for 1500.”
While his head pastry chef Sherry Yard’s team began making 24 carat-gold brushed chocolate Oscar statues a week ago, “to make sure we have enough for everyone to take home”, and the salmon is smoked in-house a few days ahead, most preparations happen the day of the ball.
But will guests really be able to get through all this food? “People are always so hungry after the Oscars,” Wolfgang says, “but we always have leftovers.”
And who will benefit from the reportedly miniscule appetites of A-listers? I for one would love a doggy bag – but alas, the leftover food will be given to a much more deserving cause: Project Angel Food, a charity in LA which delivers food to those suffering from life-threatening illnesses.
But if you want to eat like an A-lister at home, here are some of Wolfgang Puck’s recipes:
- Smoked salmon and caviar pizza
- Potato latkes with smoked sturgeon
- Spicy tuna tartare in sesame miso cones
- Wolfgang’s spring rolls
- Crab cakes with remoulade
- Beef burgers with remoulade and aged Cheddar
- Chicken pot pie (without truffle)
- Oscars fudge (not on the menu)
So, what would you cook for Clooney? Are you tempted by any of the recipes on offer?