Las Vegas Sun

August 4, 2020

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Catching up with Wolfgang Puck

Wolfgang Puck

Sun File Photo

Puck is all about setting food trends, not following them.

In the world of food, there are household names, and then there is Wolfgang Puck, whose name is literally in your household—on cans of soup, frozen entrées and every type of cooking gear imaginable. In Las Vegas, the name is still one of the biggest in the restaurant world. His hospitality company operates six restaurants on the Strip and in Summerlin, including the iconic Spago, which is is moving from the Forum Shops to Bellagio in 2018. I caught up with the legendary chef to find out all about the big move.

Why did it seem like the right time to relocate Spago from Forum Shops to Bellagio? A lot of people came to us over the years and said, “Why don’t you put Spago in my hotel?” After 25 years we felt it was time to reinvent ourselves, much like we did in L.A., and enjoy a change of scenery. We have a longstanding relationship with MGM Resorts International, with restaurants in MGM Grand and Mandalay Bay, so when the opportunity presented itself to put a Spago in Bellagio, everything just felt right.

Two of the biggest developments in the history of the city’s restaurant scene are the opening of Spago and the opening of Bellagio, which set the trend of having an elite collection of fine dining restaurants at each Strip resort. When we were in early talks about Spago at Bellagio, I said that same thing. Spago was credited for having introduced Las Vegas to fine dining and Bellagio is credited with setting the trend. We should be there! Between Bellagio’s central location on the Strip, our partners creating a new home for us with a direct view of the world-famous fountains, and indoor and outdoor seating, it is a unique feature to Spago that we’ve never had before. I’m also excited that we’ll be in the company of other chef greats like my friends and colleagues Julian Serrano and Jean-Georges Vongerichten. It is really going to be really special for us and for all of our guests, new and old.

What are the challenges in putting a fresh spin on a restaurant institution? Las Vegas has supported us for 25 years, so we owe it to them to be innovative. We want to bring in designs, menu ideas, and new ways to enjoy dining experiences to the table. In a time where guests are more in tune with in their dietary choices and want to know where their favorite foods are coming from, customization and sourcing from our California neighbors is key. The new iteration of Spago will draw from our traditions, but will also incorporate new menu items and design features to speak to the sleek look and feel of the new space.

You haven’t opened a restaurant on the Strip since 2009. How will changing trends in Las Vegas (and everywhere else) affect your approach in putting together the new Spago? Trends are trends for a reason. They come and go as quickly as they are introduced. This will be Spago’s sixth location worldwide and we are very proud that our brand has translated internationally for so many years. With that, we listen to the requests of our guests that are new to us and appreciate the support of our restaurant clientele and their tastes, too. Our focus will continue to be culinary innovation with our market-driven menus, and a la carte offerings that will be adapted daily, paired with great international wines and cocktails.

Is there a restaurant trend you appreciate and want to get involved with? Is there a trend you hate and wish would go away? We’re experiencing a new way to “eat with your eyes.” A lot of our diners love to not only take pictures of their loved ones at the table, but also take photos of their food for their social media friends. We keep that in mind when we’re plating and presenting our dishes to our guests. From choosing the most beautiful garnishes to selecting complementary plates and other dinnerware, we take even the smallest details into account when we create these tastings experiences. A trend that needs to go away … small portion sizes. Guests want the most out of their meal, there’s no sense in underserving and overcharging.

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