Business Ideas - 3 Success Lessons from Wolfgang Puck


Business Ideas - 3 Success Lessons from Wolfgang Puck


Hi I’m Evan Carmichael. Welcome to another edition of Modeling the Masters. I believe that the fastest and most effective way to grow your business is to model the strategies of people who’ve already done what you’re trying to do. So today we’re going to look at how a young boy who grew up with a single mother and was contemplating suicide in his early years turn his life around by starting his own business and went on to become worth over $500 million today. This is the story of celebrity chef entrepreneur Wolfgang Puck and the top 3 lessons you can learn from his success.

Wolfgang Puck was born to a hotel chef mother and a butcher father. The art and love of preparing food was in his blood. Puck’s father abandoned his mother just before his birth leaving Maria as a single mother. In 1956 she remarried the coalminer Joseph Puck who then adopted Wolfgang, making him Wolfgang Puck.

This marriage would result in two younger sisters and a little brother for Puck. Under the guidance of his mother who’d been dabbling in the professional culinary arts for some time, Puck began cooking pastries. He had made up his mind in an early age that he wanted to follow in his mother’s footsteps and become a professional chef. Instead of following the traditional route of first attending culinary school, Puck chose to instead train under an apprenticeship from the age of 14.

He was sent on a train to southern Austria to work in a hotel kitchen but did not find success he had hoped for. After stepping onto cakes on a bakery floor, he recalls that, “everyone told me I’m good for nothing.” A few days later, the head chef told Puck, “You’d better go home to your mother so she can breastfeed you for another year.” After pondering suicide, Puck chose instead to apprentice at another hotel.

It proved to be a wise decision. Puck decided to move to the United States in 1973 and worked in several restaurants before finding a home at Ma Maison, a failing Hollywood restaurant. There he would bring the restaurant back to prominence and become co-owner. In 1982, Puck launched his first cook book, “Modern French Cooking for the American Kitchen.”

With the success that followed and upon meeting his future wife and business partner, Barbara Lazaroff who would encourage him to follow his dreams, Puck got the confidence he needed to finally realize one of his lifelong goals. Puck was going to open his own restaurant. With the backing of some investors, he opened Spago and the rest is history. By sticking with his passion and by not letting people get him down, Wolfgang Puck was able to go from someone committing suicide to becoming one of the most well-known celebrity entrepreneur chefs in the world.

To help you take the next step, here are 3 action items that you can learn from Wolfgang Puck.

Action Item # 1: Don’t Complicate Things.

The easier it is for someone to understand what it is that you do, the easier it’s going to be for them to sign up as a customer and tell their friends about you. Keep things simple. Focus on the highest value that you can bring your clients and be the best in the world at what you do. The longer it takes prospects to understand your message, the harder it's going to be to grow your business.

Puck has never been one for pretensions. Despite being a gourmet chef who caters to the who’s who of Hollywood and many of America’s other elite, Puck has refused to succumb to the glitz and the airs of many of the other top chefs. He’s kept his recipes simple and their presentation equally so, his restaurant designs unfussy and his overall message clear-cut: don't make it complicated. Indeed, for over 25 years, people have kept coming back and telling their friends.

It’s the casual yet sophisticated nature with which Puck approaches all of his businesses that has endeared him to the American public as well as his culinary peers. His priority has always been on creating simple, innovative and tasty food and to share that with as many people as possible. Everything beyond the food is an afterthought. According to Puck, “I think people can walk by, and they see the menu.

It’s not intimidating and the food is interesting. If they get good food, friendly service in a nice environment, people will come back and tell their friends. It is the happy customer who makes the ambiance of the restaurant inviting and exciting. So I always believe great food, great service and wonderful customers put into the right space, will make a successful restaurant.

If you buy good, fresh green beans, you don’t have to line them up in a row or anything like that. Just put them out on a nice-looking plate. A mixture of things they are familiar with and new things, too.”

Action Item #2: Hire Good People.

You’ll always be limited in your growth until you start bringing on people to help you. You only have so much time of the day. Surround yourself with people who complement your weaknesses and who you can trust. Hire slowly after doing a lot of legwork and fire quickly if it’s not a good fit.

The better people you hire, the more your company will grow. It’s as simple as that. Despite being the name behind the brand as well as its main inspiration and talent, the road to success is not one that Puck has walked alone. From his early days, before the first Spago was even launched, Puck had the foresight to surround himself by only the most qualified and only those who he knew he could trust.

As the company continued to grow at an astonishing rate, Puck would replace his business partners and management staff as necessary, choosing to place in control those who are most qualified to be there and who had the kind of experience that he desired. He always believed that you had to hire talent to create a successful business. According to Puck, “Whether you have one restaurant or 10 or 20 or more, the most important thing is to hire good people. When they need me, I go.

If they don't need me as much, I don't go as much. We’re much better organized, and we have much better management. What we have that a lot of other caterers don’t is a lot of talented chefs. I’m not saying that nobody else has talented people, but nobody has as many as we have.”

Action Item #3: Never Give Up.

As an entrepreneur you're going to face some dark times. You'll think about giving up and going to work for someone else. Don't lose hope. Don't give up on your dream.

Do something every day that will move you closer to your end goal and don't let anything get in your way. Eventually you will know success. It would appear Puck was always successful but the path to success was not as smooth as it might appear. He stumbled numerous times along the way and often had to learn things the hard way but he never failed to pick himself up and get right back to work.

It was in this recovery process that Puck often learned some of the most important business lessons that he would use later on in his career. The closures and losses were not easy for Puck, especially in the early days when he was first starting out and each venture was close to life or death. But, with each failure came a lesson, according to Puck. Each time something went wrong, each time he made a mistake, that was one less mistake that he would ever make again in the future.

Whether it was to do with budgeting issues, management, promotions or the food itself, Puck made use of every opportunity to learn what he could in order to avoid similar problems in the future. According to Puck, “I learned more from the one restaurant that didn’t work than from all the ones that were successes. Only you can judge your life. You have to live up to your own expectations. There is no value with just one restaurant or with one person. The brand has to be bigger than the person.”

So remember, don’t complicate things, hire good people and never give up. To finish up this video, I wanted to share one of my favorite true stories about Wolfgang Puck and some of his best quotes.

Wolfgang Puck has been seen many times by customers, but never in the light Terry Dullum remembers well. One evening he entered one of Puck's new restaurants in Las Vegas, the Californian Pizza Kitchen at the MGM Grand Hotel. As Dullum tells the story, he walked in and sat down, only to see Puck through the open kitchen. He was surprised to see him there at all, but what surprised him more was Puck came out and took his order, then proceeded to make the pizza he ordered himself.

Dullum stated that he could see Puck toss the dough, put the ingredients on the pizza and then place it in the oven. According to Dullum, he thought maybe this was a dream and said he smiled each time he watched Puck sampling each one of the raw ingredients before he placed them on Dullum's pizza. Here was a man worth around $500 million, owned a host of restaurants around the country, is the most famous chef in the world, is the main caterer at the Governor's Ball for the Academy Awards for the past 18 years, but took the time to make one person a pizza. Dullum states Puck brought out the pizza and it was the best he ever had.

Thank you for joining me for another edition of Modeling the Masters. If you like the video and want to see more, please give it a thumbs-up below. I’d also love to hear what you have to think if you want to leave a comment under the video and we’ll see you on the next episode.


Hi I'm Evan and thank you for visiting my website! I love helping entrepreneurs! I also help brands connect with entrepreneurs.

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