the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Wolfgang Puck Hates My Family


I never had a fantasy about moving to California.  But when I came to Los Angeles, it wasn’t as if I didn’t know anything about the place.  I knew the Chinese Theater.  I knew Burbank from the Tonight Show.  I knew the health food restaurant on Sunset Blvd. where Alvy Singer ate with Annie Hall.  I knew Gidget lived in Malibu, the Brady Bunch lived in the Valley, and the gang from “Three’s Company” lived in Santa Monica.  I knew the Beach Boys liked a girl named “Barbara Ann.”  I knew Ventura Highway.  I knew it never rained in Southern California.  And I knew if you stayed at the Hotel California, you could never leave.

Most of all, I knew celebrity super-chef, Wolfgang Puck.  

After all, I was travelling to Los Angeles to go to film school and become part of the film industry.  And that meant — one day eating at the famed Spago.   I knew in the future, I would walk into Spago with a wannabe model at my side and Wolfgang Puck would run out of the kitchen to greet me.  “Neilochka!” he would shout in his Austrian accent, “Please sit down at YOUR special table right next to Al Pacino!”

Wolfgang Puck represented Los Angeles to me.  He was an icon.  A Hero.  And there’s nothing sadder when you lose faith in a hero, whether it is OJ Simpson, Michael Jackson, or Mel Gibson.  While Wolfgang Puck never committed a heinous crime, he became guilty of something just as bad — overexposure.


First he became a fixture on the “Today” show.   Then, he opened “Wolfgang Puck Cafes” in malls everywhere, so every Joe Schmoe could make believe he was eating lunch next to Al Pacino.  I can honestly say I ate my worst Italian meal ever in a Wolfgang Puck Cafe in Orange County.

Soon, Wolfgang Puck was invading my local supermarket with his “Wolfgang Puck” soups. 


At first, I was excited about this soup development.  I’m a huge fan of canned soup.  It is easy to make and usually tastes pretty good.   I have been eating Campbell’s Soup since I was a child.  But as I matured, I started to feel ashamed to bring my Campbell’s Soups “Chicken and Stars” to the checkout girl.  What could be less sophisticated?  Who eats this soup after the fifth grade? 

Luckily, Wolfgang Puck came to the rescue.  His soup had fancy names and a photo of Wolfgang Puck smiling at you right on the label.  Although it was three times more expensive than Campbell’s soup, I could proudly display it in my shopping cart.  And who knows?… maybe women in the supermarket even thought that I was having Al Pacino over for dinner that night!  In a way, buying a Wolfgang Puck soup was like having the real Wolfgang Puck travelling to your home and catering your dinner, much like he caters the Governor’s Ball each year after the Oscar’s.

But then I tasted the soup.  Have you ever tasted a Wolfgang Puck soup?  It  tastes like piss!  It makes Progresso Soups seem like something served at the Four Seasons

Then, my relationship with Wolfgang Puck turned worse.  It turned dangerous.

On our last trip to New York, Sophia and I took the red eye.  When we arrived in Flushing, it was already morning and my mother was at work.  While Sophia unpacked, I started making us some scrambled eggs.  After a few minutes of frying the eggs,  I reached for the handle of the frying pan and — OUCH — almost burnt my skin off.

“Holy Shit! ” I screamed, as I spilled the eggs all over the oven top.

As I jumped around in pain, I noticed a memo stuck on the refrigerator.  It was from my mother.

“Neil:  Be careful.  Wear a cooking glove when using the new pots!”

Later on, I learned the whole story.  My mother had already burnt her hand three times after buying this new set of cookware.

“What kind of shitty cookware did you buy?” I asked.   “What pots have a metal handle that gets so burning hot when you use it?”

“Oh, no, these pots are very good.”  she answered.  (even though they were on sale!)  “They are Wolfgang Puck pots!”


Wolfgang Puck!!  Now he is hawking cookware!  And some crap from China that he wouldn’t use in a million years!

After this painful incident Sophia, my mother, and I went to the Berkshires for a vacation.  I avoided telling Sophia about the Wolfgang Puck cookware, because I didn’t want to ruin her vacation.  She is a big fan of the Food Network and watches Iron Chef religiously.  I didn’t want her to know the truth about one of America’s most beloved chefs. 

We had a great time in the Berkshires.   Sophia and I got along terrifically.  On our return to New York, things even got romantic between us one night.  We cuddled all night in my childhood bedroom, satisfying my childhood dream of having a hot babe in my bed.

In the morning, I awoke feeling great.  My mother had gone to work.  I could hear Sophia in the kitchen.  I smiled.  Maybe she is making me a special breakfast in bed.  Suddenly, I remembered!  She didn’t know the true horror of Wolfgang Puck cookware.  I tossed the sheets aside, and, still naked, ran into the kitchen.

“Sophia, STOP!” I screamed.

But it was too late. 

“Holy SHIT!” I heard her yell in agony as my mother’s Wolfgang Puck frying pan came crashing to the floor.

Wolfgang Puck, enough!  Leave my family alone!


A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  My First Piece of Erotica!



  1. Dagny

    Your mom should have gotten the Cuisinart set. The metal handles stay cool. Well, at least the one on the frying pan does. That was part of the reason I was so excited when my uncle gave me the set.

  2. Rebecca

    Why has Wolfgang Schmuck issued this vendetta against you? I for one think we should band together and kick his ass. Anyone with me?

  3. Blonde Vigilante

    Neil, metal gets hot. But, unless it’s castiron…it better have a good handle on it.

  4. LisaBinDaCity

    Actually I love his soups. Beats Campbell’s, (and especially Progresso,) all to hell. Which ones have you tried? The chicken with egg noodles and country vegetable are outstanding!

    Yum, Spago. Their “Jewish Pizza” is mighty tasty.

  5. Charming, but single

    Neil, I almost fell out of my chair picturing you running naked from your childhood home over the Wolfgang Puck to warn Sophia. That cracked me up. Like crazy.

    Hope I didn’t offend your manhood …

  6. Kevin

    So do those pans still infect your household or have they made their way to the garbage or Goodwill?

  7. lizardek

    Mmmm…chicken and stars. Man, I miss Campbell’s!! *sobs*

  8. Lou P.

    The Al Pacino references had me literally laughing out loud! Good column.

  9. mckay

    i completely agree, that Wolfgang Puck cafe at The Block in Orange is the worst restaurant ever. next time you’re in OC, eat at Scott’s Seafood by the south coast plaza. it’s within walking distance of the performing arts center and south coast rep. you should sneak in a date night before sophia leaves.

    lol at kevin.. yes, send the offending pans to the Goodwill and let the poor burn their hands.

  10. paperback writer

    Be careful. Next he might be trying to sell you toothpaste!

  11. justrun

    I have burned my hand on the very same pan. There is no fair warning, that’s for sure.

  12. pam

    Did you know you can get a quick Puck in a lot of airports these days? It’s not very good and it’s far from hot, but when your stuck in McCarran and you’re hungry, a lousy Puck is better than no Puck at all.

  13. Dave Greten

    Neil, your political postings make me think, your comedy writings make me laugh out loud. Nice work.

  14. Non-Highlighted Heather

    You said “Annie Hall” and that made me smile.

  15. Tara

    Couldn’t you sue him for continually pucking your family like that?

  16. V-Grrrl

    I smell a class action personal injury suit cooking…

  17. Michele

    Wolfgang crossed the line for me when I saw his restaurant at the Mall of America.

    I feel so violated.

    Keep the faith, man. He’s the next “george foreman grill” — bound to be banished to garage sales and moldy basements for the rest of eternity.

  18. kristen

    You’re a funny man. I’m just glad the naked running didn’t coincide with the hot frying pan flying.

  19. modigli

    I’m on your “I hate Wolfgang Puck” bandwagon, Neil! I think his soup tastes like ass. I didn’t even know he HAD soup til I moved in with NDG. I found it in the cupboard, and I even thought “Wow, NDG has some fancy taste!” … But now I see he fell in to the same trap as everyone else.

    BTW, here in San Diego, they play commercials about visiting LA. Wolfgang is on one of them, proudly announcing “Come Visit MY L.A.” Mmmph…what a sellout!

  20. idighootchandcootch

    That sucks!! Anyway, be sure to apply the the Wolfgang Puck blister ointment, or else that bitch may scar.

  21. Brooke

    I never understood what the big deal about him was. I mean really, have you ever eaten Austrian food? Blech.

  22. Viscountess of Funk

    I’ve had the Wolfgang Puck clam chowder and one other heinous flavor. The clam chowder was like Elmer’s Glue with chunks in it. The other flavor wasn’t memorable – or I would remember it.

    I, too, have a pan (not a W.P. pan but another brand) with a metal handle that gets hot. It doesn’t matter how many times I use it, I forget the handle gets hot. Maybe I’m retarded.

  23. Alex

    His soup IS so gross- I agree! I’ve been catching up on your posts as I was away and continue to be amazed at their range and ALL so funny! Please tell Sophia that her post was one of my favorite in recent months-hopefully your readership will follow through. If not, your readers are in for a rough patch while you decompensate further each day that she is away.

  24. berrie

    hahahahahahahahahahahahahha! Too funny! sorry about those puke pans and laughing at your burnt hands!

  25. Melissa

    I love Wolfie and his wehgehtibles.

  26. Bill

    I’m happy to say that as far as I can tell, Wolfgang has not invaded Canada yet. We’re to insignificant for him and for that I’m grateful. And at the risk of seeming a shill, I still use Campbell soup. But I’m a schmo.

  27. 2nd Pearl Past the Post

    tcshk-tschk. Some things need longer in testing before market.

    btw, does this mean I should be ashamed of my Winnie-the-Pooh pasta in tomato sauce. They’re gifts for my niece, really….

  28. Brandon

    I’m not a big fan of Wolfgang Puck either, but a couple weeks ago we found ourselves in the MGM Grand in Vegas and none of the other food options anywhere near there sounded good so we had lunch with Wolfgang. Best calzone I have ever had, and I’ve had a lot of calzones.

  29. Neil

    Are you sure you just weren’t dizzy from the booze, the smoke, and the losing three hundred dollars in blackjack?

  30. Jared

    he is right.. these pots are downright dangerous.. if you like your hands, do not buy these pots and pans.. they dont just get hot like regular cookware.. my hands are pretty desensitized to heat beacause i smelt lead for a living.. and these pots burnt me instantly when i went to merely adjust the pot on the stove.

  31. Brian

    Actually, you’re probably loving the MSG in Campbell’s and Progresso. Many people get hooked on that taste and lean towards it without knowing.

    Grab some “Accent” (basically MSG in a shaker) sprinkle some in the Wolfgang Puck soup and see if it starts tasting good.

    Also, at least up here in NorCal, the Puck soup is the cheapest one on the shelf. $1.80/can average compared to $2.00+/can for Campbell’s. Weird how much the prices fluctuate.

  32. Stan

    Absolutely the worst soup I have ever tasted. Wolfgang canned soup totally skimps on ingredients and taste. I understand about the MSG but there are easy ways to compensate for flavor and WGP soup does not get it. I just had Chicken with wild rice, tastes like they dumped fat in from dead chickens rejected from the poultry market. The regular price is $3.00 a can, it was on sale for $1.00 per can. Even at that price, I’d rather eat Campbells condensed soup.

  33. s. pflaster

    I received the pots and pans for Christmas last year. Now I am worried about the lead content of the pans when cooking because of the type of metal that erodes from cooking high acid food such as “soup”. Has anyone tested the metal for lead in the weld material?

    Thank You,


  34. Jane Somner

    Very funny story. However, have you ever heard of pot holders? His cookware is THE best!!

  35. kevinsky

    Loved your tale of “Whoa”! Tell yer mom to just fill the handles with crumpled tin foil. It absolutely kills the handle heat when using these lower-end pans.
    Why does every known chef in the world need to clutter our environment with repackaged dollar store crap?
    Hey mom, you listening?

  36. rosalie

    i’m a victim of his china appliance crap #7 just died…don’t buy anything with pucks name on it…its crap

  37. rosalie

    thanks i needed to say friend says his buddy swartzenegger spent thousands on his inaugural dinner and didn’t have time to get his federal paper work in for federal funding of meals on wheels for poor elderly in california..puck catered his dinner

  38. lol

    pot holders you dumbshit

  39. James

    Really? You burned your hand on metal that was over a stovetop. Wow, this is what Darwin would call “natural selection.” Would you rather have like a fat warning label that says “METAL GETS HOT?”

  40. Buyer Beware

    The handle gets your attention, but did you check the rivets that hold it on? If you throw out the cookware quickly, you probably wouldn’t notice that the rivets corrode into what you’re cooking as we discovered on a piece of Wolfgang Puck Cookware. The cookware and handle may be stainless steel, but not the rivets. No telling what heavy metals ended up in the sauces, soups and other dishes prepared in these pans. If you are in California, you might be able to press a Prop 65 case, but I am having to go through a state consumer products safety commission equivalent. Just because it has a famous name stamped on it does not make it a quality piece of cookware!

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